Climate Variability and Household Welfare in the Andes:

Farmer adaptation and use of weather forecasts in decision making.

Corinne Valdivia, Agricultural Economics, and

Jere L. Gilles, Rural Sociology, University of Missouri-Columbia

Roberto Quiroz, Land Use Systems, International Potato Center

Christian Jetté, United Nations Development Program-Bolivia

Fundación PROINPA - Bolivia (Foundation for promotion and research of Andean products)

CIRNMA - Peru (National resources and the environment research center)


Climatic variability, characterized by periodic droughts and El Niño events, and weather events such as frosts, affect the production and consumption decisions of rural households throughout the Andean region. Both are important abiotic factors affecting the choice and mix of crops and livestock, their productivity, and therefore household food security. Important food crops, such as potato and quinoa, and livestock are affected by these events. Our research aims to answer the following questions: 1) What have farmers developed as successful strategies to cope with climatic variation in the Andean region; 2) How do farmers currently use information from forecasts and local sources to make production and consumption decisions; and 3) What mechanisms and institutions facilitate or constrain the utilization of information about climatic risk.

Our unit of analysis is the rural farm household, in its relation with markets and their communities. We focus our research on decision making, analyzing household production strategies, the portfolio of economic activities, and the role of diversification in mitigating risk.. Our purpose is to identify distinct groups of farmer strategies, evaluate these in terms of risk, productivity and net returns. To measure the effect of drought and frost on production we compare data from three years in the case of Bolivia (1993, 1995, 1999), and two in the case of Peru, and contrast these outcomes with those generated by existing and modified crop and livestock models, to evaluate actual economic returns, and the potential returns of incorporating climate and weather forecasts.

We conduct our research at two sites in the Andean region, the Province of Aroma in the Central Altiplano of Bolivia, and Puno, the Southern Sierra of Peru. Our research the first year focuses on identifying the household production strategies and economic portfolios in a rural community of Bolivia near an El Niño event year. Previous research in the region has shown a diversified strategy, that differs in drought and average rainfall years. This year (1999)  provides information to compare current and El Niño event strategies to those in previous years. Identified factors that affect use of information in the first year of research in Bolivia are studied the second year through case studies. The approach to evaluate household strategies under climatic variation is validated in Peru by conducting a survey, similar to the one applied in Bolivia, the second year in Santa María and Anccaca in Puno, Peru. The purpose is to identify groups of farmers with distinct economic portfolios. As with the case of Bolivia, we  also identify in Peru the factors affecting the use of climatic information and weather forecasts through in-depth case studies the third year. The research is conducted in collaboration with the International Potato Center in Lima Peru, that researchs potato varieties and land use patterns in this and many other regions for many years. We also collaborate with the Centro de Investigación de Recursos Naturales y Medio Ambiente (CIRNMA) in Puno Peru. This center has been working in the area for many years with Andean crop production systems. In Bolivia we collaborate with the United Nations Development Program. This program is currently assessing the impact of El Niño 1997-1998, and working to strengthen the Bolivian National System to mitigate and manage disasters. We also collaborate with a non governmental organization, Fundación PROINPA (Promoción y Investigación de Productos Andinos), a foundation promotes and conducts research on Andean indigenous products, and with SINSAAT, a Sistema de Seguridad Alimentaria y Alerta Temprana, in the Ministry of Agriculture.. CIRNMA, PNUD, PROINPA, and CIP are institutions working in the region and devoted to improving the living conditions of small holder producers and their families in the Andean Altiplano regions of Bolivia and Peru. The University of Missouri through Rural Sociology and Agricultural Economics has worked in Andean production systems research for many years, from 1981 through 1988 in Peru and from 1992 through 1997 in Bolivia through the Small Ruminant Collaborative Research Support Program.

The research aims to identify how climate, especially drought, affects the portfolio of economics activities, i.e. the production and market decisions of rural households, as they respond and adapt to climate variability. Our study identifies the groups of the population that are in the best position to take advantage of climate information, and the networks through which knowledge on climate and decisions in agriculture flow.  This research evaluates, based on current production strategies, who can benefit from using climate forecasts. Recommendations are developed from the findings, to formulate policies intended to address current constraints on the use of forecasts, and on the vulnerabilities faced by rural households as a result of climate variability. We  also developed recommendations on how to provide climate information to agricultural producers in this region. Our research sheds light on how rural households and communities currently adjust to climatic variability, evaluate the outcome of current decisions identifying use of climate information, mostly local climate knowledge, and analyze the institutions that influence their decisions, in order to determine how climate forecast information may be useful.  The reports and research results are available at ClimAndes.