What’s counted as a reindeer herder? Gender and the adaptive capacity of Sami reindeer herding communities in Sweden

Researchers of adaptive capacity and sustainable livelihoods have frequently used social, cultural, human, economic and institutional capitals to better understand how rural and resource-dependent communities address environmental, social and economic stresses. Yet few studies have considered how men and women contribute differently to these capitals to support community resilience overall. Our research sought to understand the differential contributions of Sami men and women to the adaptive capacity of reindeer husbandry and reindeer herding communities in northern Sweden. Our focus revealed a gendered division of labour in reindeer herding as an economic enterprise as well as gendered contributions to a broader conceptualization of reindeer husbandry as a family and community-based practice, and as a livelihood and cultural tradition. Based on our results, we recommend that community resilience be enhanced by generating more opportunities for men to achieve higher levels of human and economic capital (particularly outside of herding activities) and encouraging women to contribute more directly to institutional capital by participating in the formation and implementation of legislation, policies and plans.

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