Gender, Institutions, and Access to Food and Water in Lean Times: A Comparative Case Study in Northern Nicaragua

Authors: Lisa Kelley*, University of California, Berkeley, Chris Bacon, Santa Clara University, Iris Stewart-Frey, Santa Clara University, William Sundstrom, Santa Clara University
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology
Keywords: smallholder agriculture, climate change, food and water access, gender, institutions
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/14/2018
Start / End Time: 2:00 PM / 3:40 PM
Room: Proteus, Sheraton, 8th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Despite growing interest in the linkages between adaptation, smallholder agriculture and climate change, relatively less work has explored how gender and local institutions mediate these relations. This paper builds on recent work to bridge these gaps in an analysis of individual and household level food and water insecurity during a three-year drought in northern Nicaragua (2014-2017). Drawing on a comparative case study approach, as well as gender-disaggregated household survey data, focus group discussions and community-based water monitoring, this paper highlights the significance of seasonal food shortages and water shortages, as well as related concerns surrounding food and water quality. It also shows that while gender and local institutions, on their own, are not significant predictors of aggregate individual or household-level food and water availability in lean times, they play a critical role in shaping the terms of food and water quality as well as access; mediating associated labor processes, concerns surrounding mental health and bodily integrity (Naussbaum, 2011), and conflicts over water resources in dry season months. These data suggest that an overemphasis on aggregate food availability and/or climate impact scenarios can detract attention from questions of how food and water are accessed and managed, and how existing institutional strengths can be enhanced to respond to chronic shortages in these resources, particularly during extreme years.  

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