Original Research

Land tenure insecurity, vulnerability to climate-induced disaster and opportunities for redress in southern Africa

Tigere Chagutah
Jàmbá: Journal of Disaster Risk Studies | Vol 5, No 2 | a79 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/jamba.v5i2.79 | © 2013 Tigere Chagutah | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 15 January 2013 | Published: 08 February 2013

About the author(s)

Tigere Chagutah, North-West University, School of Communication Studies The Heinrich Böll Foundation, Climate Governance in Africa Programme, South Africa

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Land tenure is an important variable impacting on vulnerability to climate-related disaster. Land tenure insecurity is widespread in southern Africa and manifests itself in a number of ways that accentuate vulnerability to climate change impacts. Insecure tenure is seen to heighten vulnerability against growing demand for land for residential purposes and working space in urban areas while in the rural areas insecure tenure militates against diversified livelihoods and hinders investment in appropriate technologies and uptake of sound environmental management practices. Using the focused synthesis method, this article (1) maps the intersections between land tenure insecurity and vulnerability to climate-induced disaster in southern Africa; and (2) identifies the opportunities tenure reforms hold for vulnerability reduction in a region predicted to suffer widespread impacts from climate change. The paper contends that land tenure is a critical component of the milieu of factors – economic, social, cultural, institutional, political and even psychological – that are known to shape vulnerability and determine the environment that people live in. The study finds that land tenure reforms can help to reduce vulnerability and enhance community resilience to climate change. In this regard, the article outlines how tenure reforms can help build diverse household livelihoods, improve environmental management, particularly in the rural areas, and encourage investment in robust housing and safe neighbourhoods among the urban poor – all of which are integral to the region’s response to climate change.


Land tenure; climate change; vulnerability; disaster risk reduction; southern Africa


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