Intersectionality shapes adaptation to social-ecological change

Anna Erwin, Zhao Ma, Ruxandra Popovici, Emma Patricia Salas O'Brien, Laura Zanotti, Eliseo Zeballos Zeballos, Jonathan Bauchet, Nelly Ramirez Calderón, Glenn Roberto Arce Larrea

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


People from across the Caylloma Province of Peru are adapting to social-ecological changes, such as decreasing water supplies and rapidly retreating glaciers, in different and unequal ways. In this study, we show how this inequality is intersectional; identities like gender and age compound and interact with systems of power to shape how people adapt to these changes at the individual, household, and district scales. We draw from 130 semi-structured interviews with agricultural actors and participant observations in district and regional meetings across four districts, to demonstrate how intersectionality shapes adaptation to social-ecological change. Our results show (1) what social-ecological changes are perceived and experienced, (2) how individuals, households, and groups within the agricultural sector adapt to these changes in private (at the individual and household scale) and public adaptation spaces (institutions where people adapt collectively within each district), and (3) how intersectionality shapes adaptive capacity to these changes. Specifically, we found that ‘unskilled’ women diversified their income through day-labor in agriculture, while ‘unskilled’ men had more options for income diversification. Migrants who are also renters had access to water; however, migrants who lived in informal settlements lacked water access. Pastoralists over 50 faced more difficulties pursuing income diversification and labor migration than younger populations with similar livelihoods. Public adaptation spaces, including irrigation commissions, were largely designed for Spanish-speaking men who own land, which caused additional barriers for Quechua speakers, women, and migrants who used this space to contribute to adaptation for themselves, their household, and for the broader district. Together, these results expand scholarship on differential adaptation to social-ecological change within globally marginalized, yet locally heterogenous, communities. In particular, this study brings to light how intersecting identities, along with the social, political and economic structures in which they are situated, can lead to unequal adaptation opportunities within heterogeneous communities.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105282
JournalWorld Development
StatePublished - Feb 2021

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© 2020 The Authors


  • Adaptive capacity
  • Climate change
  • Environmental justice
  • Latin America
  • Migration
  • Peru


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