Economic and social impacts of extreme weather events on the agricultural sector in the lowlands of Nepal

  • Nanda Kaji Budhathoki

    Student thesis: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) - CDU

    Abstract

    Climate change and extreme weather events (EWE) destabilise food systems and threaten global food security. They particulaily affect people in low income countries, which have a high dependence on natural resource livelihoods, as well as limited human, institutional, and financial capacities to adapt. This thesis aims to investigate the socio-economic impacts of multiple EWEs (floods, heat waves and cold spells) on farming in the Terai lowlands of Nepal, by conducting structured interviews with 350 randomly selected farmers of the Bardiya and Banke districts. It explores a) farmers’ knowledge of and risk perceptions toward the three EWEs; b) how farmers’ livelihoods are affected, and c) how they choose to adapt.

    The health and labour productivity of farmers’ had been compromised during heatwaves and cold spells. Farmers’ perceived cold spells as more threatening to their livelihoods than heatwaves, potentially due to prior experience of heatwaves.

    Farmer’s perceive climate-related environmental risk as the most severe agriculture risk. Using the Protection Motivation Theory, it was found that farmers’ coping and threat appraisals significantly influenced their EWE risk perception. Structural Equation Model results show that education, flood damage experience and response costs, and concern about future flooding had a significant positive impact on intention to prepare, while existing government adaptation strategies had a significant negative impact. However, reciprocal factors had limited effect on farmers’ preparedness against slow onset hazards – heatwaves and cold spells.

    Crop insurance was most preferred adapation strategy for all EWEs, though off-farm employment was also widely implemented in response to floods. Despite generous premium subsidies offered by the Nepalese Government, however, crop insurance uptake remains low. As farmers’ were willing to pay higher premiums, this low uptake is likely due to poor understanding of crop insurance, cash constraints, or an arduous administrative process.

    This thesis emphasises the diverse climate change impact and the need for hazard-specific adaptation. By understanding the differences between EWEs, the Nepalese Government may design suitable adaptation strategies, for integration into the community-based education essential for expanding farmers’ coping mechanisms, and which will allow them to adapt effectively to climate change related weather extremes and to mitigate their impact.
    Date of Award2020
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorKerstin Zander (Supervisor), Jonatan Lassa (Supervisor) & Douglas Paton (Supervisor)

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