Assessing Smallholder Food and Water Access in the Context of Cumulative Hazards and Stressors: An Integrated Approach

Authors: Christopher M Bacon*, Department of Environmental Studies and Science, Santa Clara University, William A Sundstrom*, Department of Economics, Santa Clara University, Iris T Stewart, Department of Environmental Studies and Sciences, Sana Clara University, Edwin P Maurer, Civil, Environmental, and Sustainable Engineering, Santa Clara University
Topics: Global Change, Hazards and Vulnerability, Agricultural Geography
Keywords: food security, water security, vulnerability, smallholders, Nicaragua, Central America
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 5:00 PM / 6:40 PM
Room: Balcony A, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In light of global concerns surrounding rural access to food and water, assessing the relationships between household food and water security in the context of evolving climatic and socioeconomic hazards is a high priority. In this study, we use a political ecology and participatory action research approach to analyze household food and water shortages, livelihood vulnerabilities, and adaptive capacity in northern Nicaraguan farming communities from 2013 to 2018, a period affected by drought, a coffee pathogen outbreak, changing commodity prices, and recent political unrest. The study integrates qualitative research based on interviews and focus groups, longitudinal household-level survey data collected from 311 matched smallholder households in 2014 and 2017, hydroclimatic data downscaled to the village level, and regional commodity price data. Using several alternative measures of food and water insecurity, we find a statistically significant but noisy relationship between food insecurity and water insecurity across households, which is robust to adjusting for income and wealth. Although severe climate impacts are anticipated and already affecting the region, our preliminary findings suggest that the links to farmer livelihoods and food and water insecurity are so far second order compared with other hazards that may or may not be climate-related at this point– in particular the coffee leaf rust, unfavorable exchange entitlements, farming practices, and political unrest/ insecurity. Climate change will very likely exacerbate a range of hazards faced by smallholders in Nicaragua. Local institutions, including cooperatives, agroecology-based farmer groups, and village water committees, are key partners for future research and adaptation planning.

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