Coming down the mountain: understanding the vulnerability of Andean communities to hydroclimatologic variability and global environmental change (SGP-HD004)

Like many of the fields in the area, and especially those with irrigation, these land parcels in the community of Retamani, Bolivia are very small and often not sufficient to feed the families that work them

The capacity of institutions to respond to climate change impacts on agriculture and water resources is examined in three Andean river basins (Mendoza, Argentina; Choquecota, Bolivia; and Elqui, Chile). Project results are intended to enhance policy design and climate adaptation strategies to contribute to the development of regional and national policies on climate change.

Goals
• Identify and characterize the vulnerabilities of specific stakeholders to climate variability and climateinduced water problems

Vineyards in the upper oasis of the Mendoza River (Argentina) with the Andes as backdrop

• Evaluate the policies and capacities of water management institutions to reduce the vulnerabilities of these stakeholders under defined conditions

• Analyze the results of objectives 1 and 2 relative to regional climate change scenarios and future hydrological conditions

Results
• The current adaptive capacity of agricultural producers and of local and regional governments in the three studied basins is too limited to efficiently counter the emerging challenges of future climate change and extreme climatic events.

The re-located town of Gualliguaica in the Elqui Valley, Chile following the construction of the Puclaro Dam

• Those limitations are particularly reflected in major weakness in the coordination among public institutions, poor water data availability, and lack of integrated water resources management.

• Higher development level and stronger institutional frameworks in Argentina and Chile do not necessarily translate into a stronger adaptive capacity for the poor and most vulnerable populations.

For larger, better capitalized, production-oriented commercial farmers, these factors provide some protection, though. In comparison, in the Choquecota basin (Bolivia), where traditional agriculture prevails and caters mainly to household consumption and local markets, and where the presence of the state is much less strong, most of the population is highly vulnerable to climate change. Their adaptive capacity mainly hinges on access to local resources and traditional knowledge.

• However, limited water availability is an important exposure to agricultural producers in all three basins, and all producers are sensitive to climate variability. Nevertheless, climate vulnerabilities are greater for those already suffering from economic and social stressors.

• Communities in all basins do not have access to early warning systems, nor do they have the institutional support required to anticipate or respond to emergencies arising from sudden climatic changes. This significantly reduces their adaptive capacity to deal with hazardous events.

• Policies aimed at reducing resource concentration and at improved planning and risk prevention can reduce rural community vulnerability to climate and water stresses.

• With such policies in place there may also be opportunities, as the warmer climate allows introducing new crops that demand fewer cold nights and days. Earlier crops may allow producers to obtain higher prices, while frost-sensitive crops will benefit from the reduction in frosts events.