Beyond the Bean: Unpacking Diversification for Food Security, Dietary Diversity and Climate Resilience among Smallholders and Coffee Cooperatives in Nicaragua

Authors: Christopher Bacon*, Santa Clara University, Gabriella Ballardo*, Santa Clara University, Maria Eugenia Flores Gomez , Santa Clara University , Misael Rivas, PRODECOOP, Skyler Kriese, Sant Clara University, Henry Mendoza, National Agricultural University, Nicaragua, Emma McCurry, Santa Clara University, Álvaro Nicolás Benavides González, National Agricultural University, Nicaragua
Topics: Food Systems, Hazards and Vulnerability, Latin America
Keywords: agroecology, diversification, participatory action research, food security, dietary diversity, cooperatives
Session Type: Virtual Guided Poster
Day: 4/7/2021
Start / End Time: 1:30 PM / 2:45 PM
Room: Virtual 53
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Diversification is a key strategy for reducing the risk from climate disruption and other hazards. Although evidence suggests that when low input smallholders use agroecology-based diversification food security and resilience improve, refined theories and additional empirical research are needed to identify which circumstances, strategies and practices are most likely to contribute to desired outcomes. This community-based mixed methods study contributes to filling this research gap as it was conducted with Nicaragua’s leading smallholder coffee cooperative. We used the cooperative’s feedback to stratify the study population into four diversification groups, including: beekeeping, corn and bean milpa plots, shade coffee, and homegardens. Farmers reported a mean of 2.6 (SD = 1.2) income sources, and 3.8 (1.2) diversification practices. Most farm diversification practices (72%) originated through the farmer’s own initiative. Statistical analysis of surveys found a significant positive association between on farm agricultural diversity and household dietary diversity, while controlling for farm size and income. In focus groups and interviews, farmers identified wild foods and recipes consumed during the lean months, and analyzed potential diversification initiatives in the context of gender relations and seasonal labour demands. Some diversification practices appear to be linked to broader strategies, such mitigating crop failure risk, crop rotation to improve soil fertility, new crops to improve diets, or off-farm employment and new cash crops to diversify income, but more planning and comparative research is needed to articulate specific practices with synergistic strategies.

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