Household Vulnerability to Drought and Ecosystem Degradation in Northern Chile
AdvisorHutchinson, Charles F.
Committee ChairHutchinson, Charles F.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractIn the semi-arid Limari River basin, Region of Coquimbo in northern Chile sixty percent of years receive less than the long-term average annual precipitation, and dry spells tend to be multi-year. Below-normal precipitation is not always associated with ENSO cycles, but shows a high correlation to El Nino 3 region sea surface temperature.Since early during the colonial period, land in Coquimbo was utilized as a source of minerals, meat, wheat, and timber for smelters. These extractive productive processes caused the destruction of most of the natural vegetation. Impacts of past use have persisted until today and the region is still affected by intense degradation. Land ownership was originally held in haciendas and communes. Analysis of Landsat satellite imagery shows that vegetation response increases marginally during rainy years in both land tenure regimes. Most of the increase is explained by the planting of rainfed wheat and the response of less palatable native species such as Gutierrezia spp. Hence, the capacity of natural vegetation to respond to above normal precipitation is limited on both private and communal lands.Twenty five percent of the land belongs to agricultural communes, and families in these communes are considered to be poor or indigent. Three agricultural communes were surveyed, and a vulnerability index was constructed based on the community right-holders' responses. Findings show that access to productive resources (i.e., land, water, technology, credit) is a key determinant of differential vulnerability. Vulnerability is defined here as the capacity of an individual or a community to adapt (or cope, or respond) to drought. Differences in access within communities are caused by the inequitable distribution of land by the communes' boards of directors in the recent past. Access to agricultural credit is limited because families do not have collateral. Vulnerability is also conditioned by access to water, greenhouses, irrigation technology, chemicals, and improved seed. The most vulnerable families depend on off-farm employment provided by private agriculture. Governmental responses are reactive based on emergency relief rather than proactive: there is no drought long-term planning, nor consideration of differential levels of vulnerability levels among different segments of the population.
Degree ProgramArid Lands Resource Sciences