Vulnerability and adaptive capacity in livelihood responses to oil spill in Bodo, Niger Delta

  • Sobomate Sobrasuaipiri

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The environmental impacts of oil pollution in the Niger Delta have been well-documented, with research centered on transnational environmental justice issues, institutional failings at government level, and the political strategies of high profile representatives of the Ogoni community. However, the responses of affected communities has elicited relatively limited attention from academic researchers, and in particular, little is understood about the complex factors that shape how households have sought to tackle the impact of environmental degradation. This thesis addresses this gap by analysing the ways in which rural households in this region have sought to adapt and rebuild their livelihoods. The thesis combines insights from vulnerability science with a sustainable livelihoods approach to develop a conceptual framework that draws attention to the social dynamics of capacity and resilience as expressed in households’ everyday livelihood practices, and the factors that support or impede these. The study deploys a mixed method case study approach in the Ogoni community of Bodo, where people continue to struggle with the aftermath of two incidents of spillage from a Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) pipeline in 2008. Questionnaires, semi-structured interviews, focus group discussions and a desk-based survey of regional natural resource management policies are used to elicit data on land use, livelihood strategies and the impacts of oil spill, and to explore factors shaping livelihood responses to the oil spill and interventions that have followed in its wake. Findings show that social differences are critical in shaping vulnerability and capacity, and that patterns of disadvantage have become more entrenched not only as a result of oil spill, but through the unintended consequences of institutional and household responses. Gender emerges as a particularly salient factor that has contributed to variations in household resilience in the face of oil spill and the socio-political environment that followed. Environmental degradation had a particularly heavy impact on women’s farming and shell fish collecting activities, damaging household economies, but also dismantling many of the social networks that formed around women’s collective labour. Moreover, corporate social responsibility interventions had unintended gender consequences, as emphasis was given to reinforcing ‘traditions’ that limited women’s empowerment. The research findings advance an understanding of the complex gender dynamics that result in socially differentiated pathways towards greater vulnerability or resilience in the face of anthropogenic environmental hazards, in this case relating to oil pollution and its clean-up in Ogoniland.
Date of AwardMay 2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Brighton

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