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Linking knowledge systems for rural livelihoods adaptation under uncertainty: Drying and warming in Andean ecosystems
Garrett, Karen A.
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The goal of our SANREM-CRSP program in the Altiplano is to conduct research that increases the adaptability to changes in climate, the environment, and markets. To do this we must link scientific knowledge about the production systems and the environment, with the local knowledge, and people's priorities. We are studying different approaches to bridge knowledge systems, and assessing their effectiveness (research interest groups, community groups, knowledge sharing events, participatory mapping of vulnerabilities and assets, co-learning and formal training). We have identified the trends in climate of the past 30 years, and at climate projections for the Northern Altiplano, along with participatory processes to downscale this knowledge to the communities by linking this to the local forecast indicators the community experts observe. This allows us to assess technologies from the perspective of the variability and uncertainty that farmers face, and will increasingly face, when it comes to deciding what, if, and when to plant, or how to reallocate their resources. We have learned that perceptions of risks and dread of hazards are high, but with differences by locality and wealth. People in a the Central Altiplano region of Bolivia, with relatively more income land and animals are more concerned with hazard events like droughts floods and frost; while in the Northern Altiplano region, with less than half the household income, smaller land size, and migration as part of their livelihood strategies, people are more concerned with the climate changing, and affecting what they can grow. In addition to involving farmers in the evaluation of research findings, members of vulnerable groups are purposely included to engage them in the discussions and plans necessary to develop adaptation strategies that will require extra-community resources to be successful. Extreme event projections from the models relate a sense of uncertainty and variability, with presentations unlike the present, with potential for more stress in access to water, and more extreme events in temperature and precipitation that affect agriculture, today the main source of livelihood of these families. Using this information we are identifying the strategies that people use to deal with these events and have identified strategies that include developing or improving the capacity of rural communities to increase value added to their products, and mechanisms to access resources to buffer shocks. We are studying the biological and physical drivers that are changing agricultural production systems, as well as the local knowledge and perceptions of farmers, the way they assess the risks of climate hazards and change (Slovic and Weber 2002). Although trust in traditional decision making tools is declining, trust in scientific knowledge is almost non-existent. In this context two-way participatory communication can enhance this trust and build knowledge that can facilitate adaptation. This requires farmers and researchers to develop a common language. Using traditional scientific research methods combined with participatory research, the project is building new knowledge base which returns to decision makers' as information about their livelihoods, their resources and market integration capacity. It seeks to build new knowledge by bridging scientific and local knowledge systems, and human agency, identifying capacities and capabilities that decision makers in the Altiplano have to be able to adapt to uncertainty. This includes agronomic trials to identify new varieties, crops, or production techniques that can buffer the new risks of changing weather patterns.