Department of Environmental Studies and Sciences

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Chris Bacon and colleagues​ receive multi-year grant to study coping with food and water insecurity

Bacon, Iris Stewart- Frey (ESS), William Sundstrom (Economics) and Ed Maurer (CE) receive a $300,000 multi-year National Science Foundation research grant to study food and water security under climate change for smallholders in Nicaragua.

Small-scale farmers in developing regions must regularly navigate crop pathogens, hurricans, commodity price fluctuations, El Niño events, and drought, all of which threaten household food and water security. In fact, rural smallholder families in the Global South comprise more than 50% of the global food-insecure population, although they are key to conserving argo-biodiversity and producing food for a substantial segment of the population.

Such is also that case in Central America where there recent convergence of hazards, such as a coffee leaf rust ("La Roya") outbreak, high prices for several staple foods, and a drought have greatly aggravated the situation. 

The research proposed by Bacon and colleagues is centered on the coffee lands of Nicaragua, where Bacon has long-standing expertise. Using participatory approaches that include stakeholders, and methods that draw from disciplinary expertise in the social sciences, natural science, economics, and engineering. The team will examine household food and water security in the context of multiple hazards, asking questions such as:
"Who is more vulnerable and why?"
"How are changes in precipitation patterns and the roya outbreak connected to household food and water security?" 
"Which adaptations, food systems, and local institutions are more likely to advance smallholders' livelihood resilience?"

The project will include research opportunities for several undergraduate students from diverse backgrounds as well as a postdoctoral scholar. The findings will inform global efforts to link climate adaptation and disaster risk reduction with sustainable development and have particular relevance for Latin American producers as well as the coffee industry in the United States. 

Related: ESS students aid Chris Bacon in Nicaragua