Typology of Smallholder Vulnerability to Weather Extremes with Regard to Food Security in the Peruvian Altiplano
Smallholder livelihoods in the Peruvian Altiplano (central Andes) are frequently threatened by weather extremes, including droughts, frosts and heavy rainfall. A project was undertaken to investigate characteristics of smallholder households that explain the link between climate vulnerability and food security. This study revealed distinct groups of smallholders with regard to their ability to meet food requirements. Taking up the basic concept of pattern analysis, vulnerability was assessed based on similarities at the household level. The pattern approach was extended in testing the validity of the identified patterns using outcomes of a specific exposure and reported mechanisms from independent information sources. Such a validated and manageable categorization of the heterogeneous characteristics of smallholder households provides a solid basis for advancing regional development initiatives.
Publication: Sietz, D., Mamani Choque, SE. and Lüdeke, MKB. (2012) Typical patterns of smallholder vulnerability to weather extremes with regard to food security in the Peruvian Altiplano. Regional Environmental Change 12(3): 489-505.
Extreme weather events, such as droughts, frosts, and heavy rainfall, present challenges to food security for smallholder farmers in the semi-arid Peruvian Altiplano. Generally, the Altiplano is characterized by high interannual climate variability, which is closely tied to dynamics in the tropical Pacific whereby major temperature and precipitation anomalies are associated with the El Niño Southern Oscillation.
The project was undertaken to enhance the debate on interlinkages between climate vulnerability and food security as prerequisites for an adequate discussion of regional development. The aim was to investigate whether typical characteristics of smallholder households in the administrative Region of Puno exist that help to explain the causal relationship between climate vulnerability and food security.
Study region: The study was conducted in the administrative Region of Puno in southern Peru. The project team considered smallholder households in eight districts primarily inhabited by Quechua people. Their production systems are based on rain-fed agriculture in a variety of agro-ecological zones (Circunlacustre 3,800–3,900 m, Suni altiplano 3,830–4,500 m and Puna 4,000–4,800 m). The smallholders cultivate diverse food and fodder crops, such as potatoes (Solanum spp.), quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa), broad beans (Vicia faba), barley (Hordeum spp.), and oat (Avena spp.) and keep livestock such as sheep, cattle and cameloids (e.g., llama, alpaca, vicuna, guanaco). Some of the species and varieties (e.g., bitter potatoes, alpaca, and llamas) are well adapted to the challenging mountain climate.
The project team included researchers from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (Germany), the Centro de Investigacion de Recursos Naturales y Medio Ambiente (Peru), and the International Potato Centre (Peru). Using a cluster approach to evaluate smallholders’ vulnerability to weather extremes with regard to food security, researchers examined 268 smallholder households in the region using information from two existing regional assessments and from our own household survey. The cluster analysis revealed four vulnerability patterns that depict typical combinations of household attributes, including their harvest failure risk, agricultural resources, education level, and non-agricultural income. The project team validated the identified vulnerability patterns by demonstrating the correlation between them and independently reported damage: the purchase of food and fodder resulting from exposure to weather extremes. The vulnerability patterns were then ranked according to the different amounts of purchase. A second validation aspect accounted for independently reported mechanisms explaining smallholders’ sensitivity and adaptive capacity.
Outcomes and Conclusions
A cluster analysis revealed four vulnerability patterns that depict typical combinations of household attributes, including their harvest failure risk, agricultural resources, education level and non-agricultural income. The four groups of smallholders, i.e. vulnerability patterns, revealed in this study include:
- Resource-constrained households with maximal harvest failure risk,
- Resource-constrained households with low harvest failure risk,
- Greater agricultural resources with high harvest failure risk, and
- Alternative income in less educationally deprived households.
The vulnerability patterns describe typical combinations of household attributes that translate into specific sets of strategies for reducing vulnerability. Entry points here for overcoming cluster-specific constraints include interventions that concern both the household level, such as climate risk management or the building-up of agricultural assets, and the context in which people live, including access to education and alternative livelihoods. Based on the similarities among the households, this study contributes to the understanding of vulnerability beyond individual cases. In particular, the validation strengthens the credibility and suitability of these findings for decision-making pertaining to the reduction of vulnerability.
A copy of the 2012 Regional Environmental Change article, Typical patterns of smallholder vulnerability to weather extremes with regard to food security in the Peruvian Altiplano, can be obtained by contacting email@example.com.
Project File (s)
Sietz, D., Mamani Choque, S.E., and Lüdeke, M.K.B. (2013). Typology of Smallholder Vulnerability to Weather Extremes with Regard to Food Security in the Peruvian Altiplano [Case study on a project of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Centro de Investigacion de Recursos Naturales y Medio Ambiente, and International Potato Centre]. Ed. Rachel M. Gregg. Retrieved from CAKE: www.cakex.org/case-studies/typology-smallholder-vulnerability-weather-ex... (Last updated March 2013)