Solar energy and sustainable adaptation to climate variability and change : a case study from Ikisaya, Kenya
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This thesis investigates if local supply of solar energy can contribute to sustainable adaptation to climate variability and change, by examining the case of a decentralized solar energy centre in the remote, rural village of Ikisaya in Kenya. Sustainable adaptation is here understood as a process which involves leading a society on a development pathway that is socially and environmentally sustainable. Reducing vulnerability, caused by contextual conditions and multiple stressors, is an essential element of sustainable adaptation. This thesis therefore first examines how climatic and societal factors, and people’s responses to these, shape the vulnerability context in Ikisaya. Findings from this research demonstrate that high inter-annual rainfall variability, erratic precipitation, frequent droughts and occasional floods, are the main climatic drivers of vulnerability in the area. Economic, political and socio-cultural factors, as well as conflicts and insecurity, are identified as the main societal factors that contribute to vulnerability. These climatic and societal factors are interlinked in a variety of ways. Furthermore, this thesis demonstrates that responses to contextual conditions and multiple stressors form an integral part of the vulnerability context. A variety of coping strategies and adaptive measures employed by people in Ikisaya are identified in this thesis. The coping strategies primarily focus on acquiring food or income through livelihood diversification, drawing on social networks, engaging in group activities, performing illegal activities or receiving emergency food aid from the government or church. These strategies generally provide marginal income, are instable, risky, and some are socially or environmentally unsustainable. Adaptive measures aim at enhancing agricultural productivity or securing access to water, but these are not available to most people due to high investment costs or manual labor demand. The thesis then investigates how Ikisaya Solar Energy Centre influences the vulnerability context in Ikisaya, and how climatic and societal factors in turn affect the viability of the Centre. Findings from this research show that the Energy Centre has a number of direct and indirect positive implications for livelihoods, education, and health. Yet, not everyone in the community is able to access the services at the centre. Climatic and societal factors are also found to influence the financial viability of the centre through fluctuating demand for the services.