College of Agriculture & Natural Resources
Agricultural & Resource Economics

Food Security and Climate Change in Colombia

Risk Adaptation and Decision Making among Farmers

Food security and climate change are two very dire issues confronting the world today, especially given that so many people still live in rural areas where their livelihoods depend on agriculture. The United Nations recently set a Sustainable Development Goal to end all forms of hunger and malnutrition by 2030, and adapting to climate change to ensure sustainable agriculture and food sources is a major piece of that puzzle. Professor Lori Lynch with the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources’ Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics is doing her part to address these critical issues with her current research project.

Dr. Lynch has been awarded a Fulbright Scholarship, and will be conducting research based in Cali, Colombia beginning in August 2017. She has been awarded approximately $26,000 and plans to be in Colombia for 9 to 10 months. The country’s farmers are known for accepting adaptation approaches that can later be implemented by other countries, according to Lynch.

During this trip, she plans to conduct an economic experiment assessing farmers’ attitudes towards risk. Participants will be given an opportunity to hypothetically invest in farming practices that would benefit them in the long run, but cost more upfront.

“The practices are designed to increase resilience and average overall yields over time, but not every year,” said Lynch. “If there is an extreme weather event, they are more protected. But there has not been a lot of adoption. I’m looking for an explanation as to why. Are they risk averse, or do they prefer to stick to what they know [rather] than adapt to a situation?”

She will collaborate with the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), which is the lead center of CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS). CCAFS has developed a paradigm for decision-making around climate change, evaluating each possible practice in three major areas: productivity, adaptability, and risk mitigation. CCAFS has also started climate smart villages in Colombia. These villages are all located in high-risk areas and are chosen to receive information and guidance about practices that will improve food security and resilience.

Dr. Lynch is using these climate smart villages in her research, comparing the responses of farmers here as opposed to those in other villages. For her, the research is about truly understanding the participants’ decision making processes.

“It’s great that the Fulbright Program provides these types of opportunities,” said Lynch. “I hope I will be a good ambassador from the US, and that it will benefit my family and the people I work with.”

Dr. Lynch is excited to be returning to Colombia, where she previously taught a seminar, and to have her children coming with her. Both of Lynch’s children will be attending an international school in the region.

Dr. Lynch is striving to make a real impact with her research and make sure the results are widely available and useful. She emphasizes the use of videos to further the reach of this and other parts of her study. Local, national, and even international media have been interested in tracking results related to the adaptation of small-scale farmers to climate change conditions. The College is proud to support this effort and be a part of the fight against food insecurity.  

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