Vulnerability to Weather Disasters: The Choice of Coping Strategies in Rural Uganda

Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy Working Paper 107

Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment Working Paper 91

24 Pages Posted: 21 Dec 2012

See all articles by Jennifer Helgeson

Jennifer Helgeson

London School of Economics - Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment and Department of Geography and Environment

Simon Dietz

London School of Economics - Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment and Department of Geography and Environment

Stefan Hochrainer

International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: October 1, 2012

Abstract

When a natural disaster hits, the affected households try to cope with its impacts. A variety of coping strategies may be employed, from reducing current consumption to disposing of productive assets. The latter strategies are especially worrisome, as they may reduce the capacity of the household to generate income in the future, possibly leading to chronic poverty. In this paper, we use the results of a household survey in rural Uganda to ask, first, what coping strategies would tend to be employed in the event of a weather disaster, second, given that multiple strategies can be chosen, in what combinations would they tend to be employed, and, third, given that asset-liquidation strategies can be particularly harmful for the future income prospects of households, what determines their uptake? Our survey is one of the largest of its kind, containing over 3000 observations garnered by local workers using smart-phone technology. We find that in this rural sample by far the most frequently reported choice would be to sell livestock. This is rather striking, since asset-based theories would predict more reliance on strategies like eating and spending less today, which avoid disposal of productive assets. It may well be that livestock are held as a form of liquid savings to, among other things, help bounce back from a weather disaster. Yet we do find that other strategies, which might undermine future prospects, are avoided, notably selling land or the home, and disrupting the children’s education. Our econometric analysis reveals a fairly rich set of determinants of different subsets of coping strategies. Perhaps most notably, households with a more educated head are much less likely to choose coping strategies involving taking their own children out of education.

Keywords: Coping strategies, covariate risk, education, extreme weather, poverty trap, small-scale farming, vulnerability, Uganda

JEL Classification: Q12, Q54

Suggested Citation

Helgeson, Jennifer and Dietz, Simon and Hochrainer, Stefan, Vulnerability to Weather Disasters: The Choice of Coping Strategies in Rural Uganda (October 1, 2012). Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy Working Paper 107, Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment Working Paper 91, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2191965 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2191965

Jennifer Helgeson

London School of Economics - Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment and Department of Geography and Environment ( email )

Houghton Street
London, WC2A 2AE
Great Britain

Simon Dietz (Contact Author)

London School of Economics - Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment and Department of Geography and Environment ( email )

Houghton Street
London, WC2A 2AE
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://personal.lse.ac.uk/dietzs

Stefan Hochrainer

International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) ( email )

Schlossplatz 1
Laxenburg, A-2361
Austria

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