Social capital reduces vulnerability in rural coastal communities of Solomon Islands

Author(s): Malherbe,W., Sauer, W. and Aswani, S.
Link to CST author(s): Willem Malherbe
Publication: Ocean and Coastal Management
Year: 2020
Full reference: Malherbe,W., Sauer, W. and Aswani, S. 2020. Social capital reduces vulnerability in rural coastal communities of Solomon Islands. Ocean and Coastal Management 191:1-9
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Rural island communities are generally regarded as the most vulnerable groups affected by climate change. This perception arises due to them often being in less developed areas with high levels of exposure to stressors, while reportedly lacking the means to cope with these stressors. Studies which use developed-country yardsticks, such as those used in past IPCC-based assessments, when measuring vulnerability in less developed states will however inevitably over-pronounce its effects in such areas. The sustainable livelihoods approach provides an alternate means of determining vulnerability using capital assets such as social capital. The presence of these assets enables communities to pursue diverse livelihood strategies which ultimately serve to reduce their vulnerability. This study seeks to measure attributes of social capital in five marine dependent communities of Solomon Islands. This was done through a questionnaire survey of 110 respondents, which comprised of 15 questions related to social capital. Question scores were equally balanced and also contributed equally to each of the five indicators of social capital identified in the literature-namely community cohesion, gender equity, leadership, decision making, and equal access to services and resources. The results indicated an overall social capital vulnerability score of 0.379, where 0 indicates the lowest possible vulnerability score and 1 the most vulnerable. Community cohesion decreased vulnerability the most within these communities, followed by gender equity, leadership, equal access to services and resources and decision making. Our results indicate a high degree of social capital in Solomon Islands communities, and therefore its importance as an inherent measure for households to cope with both climate and non-climate related stressors. Climate change directed policy should therefore be developed with the aim of preserving social capital as it provides a culturally embedded means of deterring vulnerability, at the risk of more expensive and possibly less pragmatic alternative measures.