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Impacts of smallholder agricultural adaptation on food security: evidence from Africa, Asia, and Central America

Lim, Krisha, Wichmann, Bruno, Luckert, Martin K., Läderach, Peter
Food security 2020 v.12 no.1 pp. 21-35
climate, climate change, data collection, food security, households, issues and policy, markets, Africa, Asia, Central America
Understanding the efficacy of smallholder adaptation to changing environments is crucial to policy design. Past efforts in understanding whether, and to what extent, adaptation improves household welfare have faced some key challenges including: 1) endogeneity of adaptation; 2) localized results that are difficult to generalize; and 3) understanding whether the efficacy of adaptation depends on the reasons for adaptation (e.g. market conditions vs climate change). In this study we estimate effects of smallholder agricultural adaptation on food security, while addressing each of these three challenges. First, we identify and test instrumental variables based on neighbor networks. Second, we use a dataset that contains information from 5159 households located across 15 countries in Africa, Asia, and Central America. Third, we investigate whether adaptation that is motivated by changes in market conditions influences the efficacy of adaptation differently than adaptation motivated by climate change. Across our global sample, an average household made almost 10 adaptive changes, which are responsible for approximately 47 days of food security yearly; an amount nearly 4 times larger than is indicated if endogeneity is not addressed. But these effects vary depending on what is motivating adaptation. Adaptation in response to climate change alone is not found to significantly affect food security. When climate adaptation is paired with adaptation in response to changing market conditions, the resulting impact is 96 food secure days. These results suggest the need for further work on the careful design of climate change interventions to complement adaptive activities.