What is the relationship of livelihood strategies to farmers’ climate risk perceptions in Bolivia?


L. Rees

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This study expands the boundaries of existing risk perception literature by examining climate hazards distinct from health and safety, and Latin America instead of the United States or Europe. Research on risk perceptions and communication has concentrated on the individual’s cognitive mechanisms for processing risk, and has ignored the social system that communicates risk to a person. In this paper, indicators common to the development literature, gender, capital and diversification, combined with Paul Slovic’s (1987) model on risk, provides insight to the development and risk perception literature.

People assess risks using rules and association based experiential systems (Slovic and Weber, 2002). In the case of Bolivia, if the results of traditional (association) and expert forecasts (rules) conflict, farmers will use the traditional model (Slovic et al, 2002).

The Bolivians from the Andean Highland region mostly sustain themselves through production agriculture, the returns are greatly affected by variable climate events and how the perceptions of climate uncertainty affect rational economic decision-making. The purpose of this study is to examine the reduction of economically irrational decision-making and the sustainability of local ecosystems by developing strategies that link both the rules and the association systems on risk.

The data used was a survey done by investigators of The Sustainable Agriculture and Natural Resource Management Collaborative Research Support Program (SANREM) in the Altiplano region of Bolivia. Four focus groups were organized in the municipality of Umala (July 12, 2007). Three focus groups were organized in the municipality of Ancoraimes (July 26, 2007). The focus group participants were determined from the survey data.

The data was analyzed by using an ordinal logistic regression model. The focus group transcriptions are examined by using Content analysis.

The preliminary analysis of the focus groups shows that farmers rely on climate indicators to help them make cropping decisions. Most of the people distrust the information they receive from the radio because it is not region specific information. The participants discussed coping mechanisms they use when faced with a shock; these include using reserve food storages, requesting help from different governmental levels and institutions, and migrating to find work in other places.

The results from this study, the first time presented, would foster an interesting discussion among the attendees with various backgrounds in agriculture economics and developmental economics on the effects of climate change and risk perceptions on economic decision-making. Currently, climate change has become a very important issue, particularly among policy-makers, who struggle to grasp a proper framework to examine the effects on economic decision making through risk perceptions, either based on associations and rules, or both, and how policy can better link rules and association based risk perceptions to improve economic decisions.

This poster was also presented at the SANREM CRSP Annual Meeting, Los Banos, The Philippines, 26-29 May 2008.

Additional Bibliographic Information

Poster presented at the SANREM CRSP LTR-4 Annual Meeting, Puno, Peru, 24-27 April 2008

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