Monthly Archives: May 2018

Livelihoods, justice, and governance in natural resource management – insights from mangrove socio-ecological systems in Vietnam

Steven Orchard // Sussex Sustainability Research Programme (SSRP) // May 8th 2018 // 1-2pm // Arts C133


Mangrove system dependent people in coastal areas of Vietnam employ a range of actions that have evolved over time and which help them overcome the numerous challenges that they face. However, rapid social and environmental change, particularly from the rise in aquaculture farming and climate change, threatens to breach the coping capacity of many coastal people. The ability of coastal peoples to adapt to change is embedded in their livelihoods and social networks, which are shaped by institutional structures and processes at multiple levels of mangrove system governance. Understanding how coping capacity can be built upon and/or transformed into adaptive capacity, and thereby widening the coping range, is urgently required. Integrating sustainable livelihood, social network and institutional approaches, this research draws on quantitative household surveys, and qualitative semi-structured interviews and focus groups, from three sites in northern Vietnam. Results indicate that higher degrees of aquaculture farming are associated with resource inequality, social fragmentation, and institutions that foster elite capture and reinforce local power dynamics. Considerations of adaptive capacity must be incorporated into coastal development plans to ensure that those most dependent on mangroves for their livelihoods, who have contributed least to social and environmental change, are not faced with disproportionate burdens and reduced capacity to adapt.


I am a research fellow at the Sussex Sustainability Research Programme (SSRP) working on the project ‘Collective action and the adaptive capacity of smallholder farmers in marginal mountainous areas of north India’. I completed my PhD in 2015 which studied the distribution of adaptive capacity within mangrove social-ecological systems of Vietnam. I have also studied land use, livelihoods and social-ecological change in Swaziland and Kenya.