Uphill cultivation : farmers in the changing environments of the Rio Ica watershed, Peru



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This dissertation examines how smallholders in the upper Rio Ica watershed respond to climate change and other agricultural challenges. It focuses on four themes associated with agricultural change. First, it elucidates farmer observations, perceptions, and awareness of climate changes that include decreased precipitation and more extreme temperature variations. Second, it provides a typology that categorizes climate change adaptations by smallholders and development organizations. Third, it analyzes how kikuyu, an invasive grass species, impacts agricultural strategies and limits production. Fourth, it discusses how development agencies and farmers work to reduce agricultural vulnerability. The impetus for the research is threefold: 1) effective climate change adaptations are much needed and understudied; 2) the upper Rio Ica watershed is undergoing climate changes that force many farmers to migrate, resulting in the loss of “traditional” agricultural strategies, a crucial piece of adaptation and; 3) current development programs seem to be less effective than desirable at reducing farmer vulnerability. The dissertation contributes to literature on human-environment geography, cultural and political ecology, and adaptation studies. The research methods include: farmer surveys, semi-structured interviews, community meetings, informal conversations, soil analyses, remote sensing, and archival research. Results of the individual component studies vary. Recent climate changes that include decreased precipitation and more extreme temperatures have pushed the limits of “traditional” agricultural strategies and forced farmers to adapt more modern agricultural additions. Adaptation development programs must also recognize that climate change is one of many disparate challenges affecting farmers, and that increasing resiliency will involve adaptation programs that may have little connection to climate.