Department of Environmental Studies and Sciences

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Assessing Vulnerability to the Coffee Leaf Rust Outtbreak, Drought, and Food Insecurity in Nicaragua

New paper by Bacon, Sundstrom, Stewart and Beezer

Which adaptations to global change and climate variability are likely to help rural residents access enough food and avoid selling the farm? In a peer reviewed study recently published in World DevelopmentChris Bacon (Environmental Studies and Sciences), Bill Sundstrom (Economics), Iris Stewart (ESS), and David Beezer (ESS undergraduate) examine strategies for disaster risk reduction and resilience in Nicaragua. A coffee leaf rust outbreak that began defoliating crops in 2011 and a drought that started in 2014 converged to exacerbate food insecurity in Central America. The article explores how seasonal hunger relates to smallholder organizational affiliation, farm and farmer characteristics, and post-hazard coping. The community-based participatory study integrates a livelihoods survey of 368 households, qualitative research, GIS mapping, and hydro-climatic data analysis.  A number of household capacities and agroecological practices correlate significantly with shorter periods of seasonal hunger: households with larger farms, with off-farm employment, and that produce more than half of their food, harvest more coffee, and maintain more fruit trees reported fewer lean months. The results also suggest path dependence in how households cope with a sequence of environmental stressors, as the use of less preferred coping responses to past events (e.g., 2009 drought) tended to correlate with their continued use after subsequent hazards.  The research team will return to Nicaragua to continue this NSF funded project in July.

Reference and link the full article is here: Bacon, C. M., Sundstrom, W. A., Stewart, I. T., & Beezer, D. (2017). Vulnerability to Cumulative Hazards: Coping with the Coffee Leaf Rust Outbreak, Drought, and Food Insecurity in Nicaragua. World Development93, 136-152. 

Photo: Farmers stand in their milpa discussing climate variability and response (credit: Chris Bacon)