Potatoes climate and markets in the livelihood strategies of Altiplano communities in Bolivia


E. Jimenez; C. Valdivia; A. Romero

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Climate change and market uncertainties are drivers that impact on how families, and members within households, in Altiplano communities devise their livelihood strategies, based on capitals accessed and controlled, and the markets in which they are able to participate. Perceptions of risk, feelings of dread about climate changes, prices for their products, and pests affecting their crops may have an effect on the ability to develop climate resilient strategies. Adapting to Change in the Andes, a research collaboration project in the Sustainable Agriculture and Natural Resource Management Collaborative Research Support Program (SANREM CRSP) is studying how climate and markets, are drivers of change in Altiplano ecosystems, through impacts on the environment and on human social systems. Two working hypotheses inform the research. The first focuses on the system drivers. On the one hand climate change, with increased variability and extreme events, has increased the risks in production and directly on livelihoods and wellbeing. On the other, rural communities in the Altiplano, have faced difficulties with markets for their products due to partial integration, and high transactions costs. The second focuses on agency, and how participatory approaches develop knowledge and skills that increase capabilities and agency to negotiate these risks, and develop strategies that reduce the risks posed by both drivers. For the strategies to be sustainable the natural capital must grow. On of the elements of this capital is the biodiversity of potatoes and other Andean tubers.

The presentation focuses first on the importance of potatoes and the various varieties in the livelihoods of households in the Altiplano, analyzing a sample of 360 households in two distinct regions of the Bolivian Altiplano, where potato varieties are produced and play a dual role in the household economic portfolio -market and consumption- along with other native crops, and livestock. Because women and men in households may engage in different activities, gender differences regarding perceptions about dreads and risks, livelihood wellbeing concerns, and market participation are assessed. The analysis seeks to identify which livelihood strategies are more resilient to shocks, and how this is explained by the capitals and abilities. Which livelihood strategies are more resilient to climate and market shocks, which capitals are significant, and how these are reflected in how people perceive risks and feel dreads are analyzed. Five capitals, natural, cultural, social, economic, human, are operational in the quantitative analysis of their effect over perceptions of risk and dreads, and income generation. Diversity of potatoes managed for consumption and markets is a measure of the natural capital.

Additional Bibliographic Information

Presented at "Potato Science for the Poor: Challenges for the New Millennium" A Working conference to Celebrate the International Year of the Potato, Cuzco, Peru, 25-28 March 2008

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