Climate risk management

Lead Organization:

Universidad Mayor de San Andres

Community of Practice:



Ecuador, Bolivia, and Peru




For the past six years, the Institute for Agricultural and Natural Resources Research (IIAREN) of UMSA’s Department of Agronomy has been carrying out research on climate patterns (trends in the hydrologic balance as an indicator of climate change) as well as the perceptions and expectations of farmer families regarding climate variability (study of their vulnerability to climatic change). In this context, adaptive technologies have been tried, implemented and tested. IIAREN has coordinated with research groups in the country and abroad to understand better productive systems and natural resource management strategies, as well as the causal factors and the effects of climatic change on the families and the environment. Research has been conducted at several levels of complexity, including production systems, livelihoods, communities, watersheds and ecosystem. All this information has been made available for both farming groups and the scientific community.High climate variability of the Andes increases risk in agricultural production and food security, and renders critical the need for some type of prediction that minimizes its effects. It is important to understand the climate indicators that highland farmers use, and assess their usefulness to predict the climate conditions of the agricultural seasons in 2009-2010 and 2010-2011. This information should be combined with information already obtained in previous seasons. The local knowledge will be correlated with meteorological, phenological and biodiversity-related information gathered by researchers. In addition, the resulting information will be tested with farmers in the 2010-2011 agricultural season. The assumptions implied in farmers’ predictions will be tested, and the degree of error in their predictions will be documented. At the same time, there will be a systematic documentation of the use of technology and social strategies, as well as climate adaptive knowledge processes. UMSA will be responsible for all project activities in Bolivia. In the recent past, it used non-CCRP funding to carry out research on the proposed topics, and CCRP funds allow it to expand research to include more communities and systematize the research findings. It will continue with weather monitoring, and the statistical analysis of the data gathered. It will coordinate with the University of Missouri in the design and application of survey instruments to gather socioeconomic information, which the University of Missouri will use in Peru. UMSA will document and share the information with research and development organizations in Bolivia.

Grant Aims:

  • Gather information on locally developed biological and physical climatic indicators.Assess the efficacy of forecasts based on the local indicators, as well as their importance on agricultural decision-making.
  • Identify and validate technologies appropriate to respond to climate variability in the region.
  • Develop a prototype of early warning system and decision-making support system for agricultural production planning, which could have applications elsewhere in the highlands through use of the methodologies.
  • Systematize and diffuse the information.

Outputs and Outcomes:

  • Installation of weather stations and analysis of historic data show evidence of warmer and drier conditions.
  • Confidence percentages for traditional bioindicators established.
  • Study designed to look at the mechanisms that lead to the abandonment of sustainable practices (AEI basically) that help create resilience to climate change instead of its adoption are important in places like the Bolivian altiplano where these practices have not been completely abandoned. The study is based on representative interviews of 340 farmers across communities. It looked at 3 “traditional” practices: use of manure, multiple varieties of potato and bioindicators. Often it is thought that only the oldest, most uneducated and poorest farmers (laggards) still use these practices. The results show that actually the poorest and wealthiest farmers use these practices (except for bioindicators, used mostly by poor probably because they are evangelical where not allowed to practice indigenous knowledge systems). The wealthiest use both chemical and manure fertilizers and improved and tradi varieties. The farmers in the middle have neither the money or labor to use these practices and so tend to use money when they have it to purchase inputs.
  • A study based on survey data collected in 2006 of 340 representative families across 11 communities in the Bolivian Altiplano shows that  traditional  practices for dealing with climate variability are being  abandoned. Specifically, only 10% in one community and 40% in another are still use bioindicators to forecast climate down from nearly 100% 10 yrs ago. Number of native potato varieties is also decline due to the introduction of an improved variety which has multiple culinary uses, a high price, high yields with chemical fert. and requires less labor. Now 90% of farmers are using this variety. This abandonment of practices might be due to formal education system which circumvents traditional apprenticeships between children and parents, access to tractors which separate seeding and manure application activities as well as makes planting time dependent on when community tractor is available; and more off farm work (possibly spurred by smaller plot sizes) which lowers on-farm labor.
  • Through mostly socio-economic research, the project was able to document how different farming communities were able to successfully respond to demographic, climate and market changes based on options x contexts. Communities where there was less land, but more access to markets due to new roads and ability to grow vegetables from warming climate made the investment in irrigation systems. Others shifted from bitter potato to commercial potato due to warming temperatures, new roads, and better prices, others shifted to dairy. A Cost Benefit analysis shows improved doubling and even tripling of profit due to these changes, which are also an example of farmer intervention without outside intervention.
  • The project used published research on historic temperatures (1955-2004) from metrological stations and combined it with local perceptions to produce some new analysis on trends in climate change in the Bolivian Altiplano. In general there are warming trends in Tmin and Tmax with a statistically determined change point occurring in 1986/87, very close to the participatory defined change point that coincided with a major El Nino of 83/84. While there isn’t a major change in total annual precipitation over time, the warming temperature led to more evapotranspiration which results in drier conditions and less water availability. Models based on this data show that in 2020-2030 there will be more frost free periods, and precipitation extremes will continue. The effects of these changes, combined with demographic, infrastructure and market changes can already be seen, where cropping times and types have dramatically changed since the 80s.According to a survey of 280 farmers in a variety of N and C Altiplano (BO) ecosystems within a 200 KM transect over 4 years, the highest perceived hazards for crops and floods are pests. In the N. altiplano the concerns were especially high for climate change, loss of soil fertility and unemployment. Pest issues were probably due to CC and increase agricultural intensification activities.