Dynamics of Drought Vulnerability in Rural Communities of California’s San Joaquin Valley

Authors: Christina Greene*, University of Arizona
Topics: Hazards and Vulnerability, Agricultural Geography
Keywords: drought, vulnerability, farmworker communities
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 1:20 PM / 3:00 PM
Room: Maurepas, Sheraton, 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Drought vulnerability is a product of not only the physical intensity of the drought, but the dynamic interactions between social and physical processes. However, drought assessments and drought management policies continue to be dominated by physical framings of drought that identify and monitor drought through physical indicators. How social and physical processes interact to create drought vulnerability in the first world context remains poorly understood, especially in disadvantaged communities. This research examines the dynamics of drought vulnerability in rural farmworker communities in California’s San Joaquin Valley by analyzing how changes in water resources and agricultural practices interact with social processes in to produce drought vulnerability. A combination of household surveys and in-depth interviews with farmworkers, farmers, and social service providers is used to identify the impacts of drought on agriculture, water security, food security, employment, and migration as well as government and individual actions during the drought. Findings demonstrate that vulnerability is a complex and dynamic relationship between social, economic, political, and environmental processes. Agricultural actions made in response to the drought reshaped the vulnerability of rural communities. Narratives of social drought impacts also shaped drought relief and who was eligible for what type of aid. Continued community based research on the social dimensions of drought is needed to improve drought planning and climate change adaptation.

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