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Farmers’ vulnerability to global change in Navarre, Spain: large-scale irrigation as maladaptation

Albizua, Amaia, Corbera, Esteve, Pascual, Unai
Regional environmental change 2019 v.19 no.4 pp. 1147-1158
agricultural land, climatic factors, crop prices, farmers, global change, irrigation, issues and policy, livelihood, local government, small-scale farming, trade, villages, Spain
Agricultural landscapes are dynamic environments which change in response to cropping and trade opportunities, available technologies and climatic conditions. In this article, we investigate farmers’ vulnerability to climate-related stressors and crop price volatility in rural Navarre, Spain. Specifically, we analyse the extent to which livelihood differences and vulnerability can be partly explained by the development of a large-scale irrigation project promoted by the Spanish and regional governments. Grounded on qualitative and quantitative data gathered across 22 villages, we demonstrate that small-scale diversified farmers appear the most vulnerable and least able to adapt to climate-related stressors and crop price volatility. In contrast, more market-driven, large-scale intensive farmers, who participate in the irrigation project, are the least vulnerable to these stressors. We argue that the irrigation project has increased the short-term adaptive capacity of irrigation adopters while establishing the institutional conditions for the displacement of small-scale farming. Therefore, we suggest that farmers’ vulnerability in Navarre can be explained by maladaptive irrigation policies designed to favour large-scale and market-driven agriculture.