Managing Uncertainty in Rural Amazonia: Climate Change, Crop Diversity, and Social Networks

If you’re at the annual American Anthropological Association meeting in San Francisco next week (Nov. 14-18), I’ll be giving my talk at 2:45 pm on Friday (room: Golden Gate 2 at the Hilton San Francisco). Here is the abstract:

Most Amazonian smallholder farmers are accustomed to uncertain climatic conditions, often relying on traditional ecological knowledge, agrobiodiversity management, and social network support to contend with the threats of drought and flooding.  Nonetheless, anthropogenic climate change presents unique challenges to Amazonian farmers and their resilience.  Between 2009 and 2010, record flooding accompanied by intense drought left devastating impacts on many smallholder communities in the Central Amazon, severely compromising production of even the most resistant crops, including the regional staple manioc.  Drawing on botanical, ethnographic, and social network data collected during this period, I discuss the effects of these events on the production and management of manioc and its varieties in communities along the Lower Madeira River in the Central Brazilian Amazon.  Examining issues of crop selection and the dynamics of varietal distribution through social networks, I highlight both the vulnerabilities that farmers face and the mechanisms by which they respond to increasingly uncertain environmental conditions.  To conclude, I consider the ways in which anthropological research on agrobiodiversity management vis-a-vis climate change may serve farmers and policy makers alike.

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