Adaptation to Global Change in Farmer-Managed Irrigation Systems of the Gandaki Basin in Nepal
AdvisorScott, Christopher A.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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EmbargoRelease after 08/27/2020
AbstractThe food security and livelihood of millions of marginal farmers depend on the productivity of smallholder farms that account for 50 percent of global farmland production. However, these farms are increasingly under stress from global change, including climate change, market integration, and international out-migration. In addition, there is limited information on how farmers and local irrigation institutions cope with and adapt to these multilevel changes. Using the case of 379 farmers located in 12 farmer-managed irrigation systems (FMIS) in the Gandaki Basin of Central and Western Nepal, this study explores how FMIS and farmers cope with and adapt to water stress. Drawing on empirical evidence of these FMIS, I build on the understanding of adaptive capacity -- a central aspect of institutional adaptation -- based on five capitals (human, social, physical, natural and financial) and two governance attributes. The institutional adaptation of FMIS can be broadly categorized into structural (e.g. canal lining, temporary dams) and operational measures (e.g. water allocation rules). Some of the factors that facilitate effective adaptation include collective action, leadership, and good governance as well as physical attributes including the presence of an economically feasible alternative water source. At the farmers’ level, I studied crop choice, which emerged as one of the common adaptation strategies to global change, by incorporating multilevel drivers at household, institution, and regional level. The household attributes included farmer’s demographic and socioeconomic characteristics, institutional information focused on irrigation system attributes, and regional variables included precipitation and temperature variables. The study showed that crop choice is driven by biophysical system, (measured by the size of the river that feeds the irrigation system), market integration, and farmer’s age. Climate change and variability act as a threat multiplier because they compound the existing impacts the system faces from social, economic and biophysical changes. Overall, the dissertation helps us better understand the institutional adaptive capacity that incorporates both the assets and governance-based dimensions, expands the typology of irrigated agriculture to include both the structural and operational measures. Further, the multilevel modeling adds as a quantitative tool to assess the effects of global change. The dissertation, therefore, makes theoretical, empirical, and methodological contributions to the literature on adaptation and resilience.
Degree ProgramGraduate College