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Political economic barriers to global change adaptations: a study of agrarian rural development in northwest Costa Rica

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This is a study of the plight of smallholder agriculture in Northwest Costa Rica. More specifically, this is the story of 689 rice farms, of an average size of 7.2

This is a study of the plight of smallholder agriculture in Northwest Costa Rica. More specifically, this is the story of 689 rice farms, of an average size of 7.2 hectares and totaling just less than 5,300 hectares within the largest agricultural irrigation system in Central America. I was able to define the physical bounds of this study quite clearly, but one would be mistaken to think that this simplicity transfers to a search for rural development solutions in this case. Those solutions lie in the national and international politics that appear to have allowed a select few to pick winners and losers in Costa Rican agriculture in the face of global changes. In this research, I found that water scarcity among smallholder farms between 2006 and 2013 was the product of the adaptations of other, more powerful actors in 2002 to threats of Costa Rica's ratification of the Central American Free Trade Agreement. I demonstrate how the adaptations of these more powerful actors produced new risks for others, and how this ultimately prevented the rural development program from meeting its development goals. I reflect on my case study to draw conclusions about the different ways risks may emerge in rural development programs of this type. Then, I focus on the household level and show that determinants of successful adaptation to one type of global change risk may make farmers more vulnerable to other types, creating a "catch-22" among vulnerable farmers adapting to multiple global change risks. Finally, I define adaptation limits in smallholder rice farming in Northwest Costa Rica. I show that the abandonment of livelihood security and well-being, and of the unique "parcelaro" identities of rice farmers in this region define adaptation limits in this context.

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  • 2014

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Institutional analysis of water management for agriculture in the Chancay-Lambayeque basin, Peru

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This research presents an analysis of the main institutions and economic incentives that drive farmers behaviors on water use in the Chancay-Lambayeque basin, located in Lambayeque (Peru), a semi arid

This research presents an analysis of the main institutions and economic incentives that drive farmers behaviors on water use in the Chancay-Lambayeque basin, located in Lambayeque (Peru), a semi arid area of great agricultural importance. I focus my research on identifying the underlying causes of non-collaborative behaviors in regard to water appropriation and infrastructure provisioning decision that generates violent conflicts between users. Since there is not an agreed and concrete criteria to assess "sustainability" I used economic efficiency as my evaluative criteria because, even though this is not a sufficient condition to achieve sustainability it is a necessary one, and thus achieving economic efficiency is moving towards sustainable outcomes. Water management in the basin is far from being economic efficient which means that there is some room for improving social welfare. Previous studies of the region have successfully described the symptoms of this problem; however, they did not focus their study on identifying the causes of the problem. In this study, I describe and analyze how different rules and norms (institutions) define farmers behaviors related to water use. For this, I use the Institutional Analysis and Development framework and a dynamic game theory model to analyze how biophysical attributes, community attributes and rules of the system combined with other factors, can affect farmers actions in regard to water use and affect the sustainability of water resources. Results show that water rights are the factor that is fundamental to the problem. Then, I present an outline for policy recommendation, which includes a revision of water rights and related rules and policies that could increase the social benefits with the use of compensation mechanisms to reach economic efficiency. Results also show that commonly proposed solutions, as switch to less water intensive and more added value crops, improvement in the agronomic and entrepreneurial knowledge, or increases in water tariffs, can mitigate or exacerbate the loss of benefits that come from the poor incentives in the system; but they do not change the nature of the outcome.

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  • 2013