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Department of Environmental Studies and Sciences

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New Research - Climate and food and water security

SCU faculty study farmer resilience to multiple hazards

SCU faculty study farmer resilience to multiple hazards

Professors Christopher M. Bacon (Environmental Studies & Sciences), William A. Sundstrom (Economics and Data Analysis), Iris T. Stewart (Environmental Studies & Sciences), Ed Maurer (Civil Engineering), and, former SCU postdoc, and current University of Colorado Denver Assistant professor, Lisa C. Kelley (Geography & Environmental Science) recently published a study examining the effects of climate variability and change on the food and water security of smallholder farmers in Nicaragua. Their study is one of the first to analyze household seasonal food and water simultaneously. Using this integrated framework, the team found that seasonal patterns such as crop price, agricultural calendars, and precipitation correlate with farmers’ vulnerability to food and water insecurity, leading to 5-6 months of resource scarcity for farmers (see Figure).

Collection of four graphs showing food insecurity, mean precipitation per month, community and agricultural calendar, and seasonal grain prices

The team also conducted farmer interviews, ethnographic research and collected contextual data concluding that farmer’s vulnerability to food and water insecurity is exacerbated by both household dynamics and exposure to interannual events, such as drought, coffee rust, and shifting commodity prices. They found that higher incomes, larger farm areas, and diversified farm production are correlated with improved food and water security for smallholder households in Nicaragua. To help address structural obstacles to meeting basic food and water needs and reducing vulnerability, the team suggests using this evidence to inform community-based and participatory strategies that use agroecology to build food and water sovereignty.

This work, emerging from five years of National Science Foundation funded research (see acknowledgements), was published as a peer-reviewed open-access article in World Development.