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Toward sustainable adaptation to future climate change: insights from vulnerability and resilience approaches analyzing agrarian system of Iran


There is no certainty that adaptation to climate change is sustainable, and new approaches to assess current climate change adaptation trajectories are sorely needed. In this paper, we review the farmer-focused approaches (typical of vulnerability approaches) and agro-ecosystem-focused approaches (typical of resilience approaches). We propose that a combination of the two may be a better way to conceptualize sustainable adaptation to future climate change within an agro-ecological system. To test our hypothesis, we use the case study of Iran, a land that has shown both tremendous resilience and vulnerability in its agro-ecological system. We explore the changes that have occurred in the Iranian farming system and their implications for farmers’ resilience to climate change through an integrated lens combining vulnerability approaches and resilience approaches. During the previous five decades, we describe how Iranian peasants have become small farmers, the land tenure system has changed from a traditional landlord-sharecropping system to family farms, and the quantity and quality of the agro-ecological resources have changed considerably. Our integrative approach provides important insights for both research and policy. We show that combining the two approaches can have far-reaching implications for farmers’ adaptation to future climate change knowledge, policy, and practice since one approach aims to decrease farmers vulnerability and the other approach aims to build resilient agro-ecosystems.