May 6, 2014
Ben Warner, a School of Sustainability doctoral student, used an interdisciplinary approach to determine the causes of water scarcity in the rural, semi-arid region of northwestern Costa Rica. By working directly with water and agricultural managers, Warner found that both drought and international trade liberalization treaties have had a major impact on smallholder farmers. As a result, they have become increasingly vulnerable to global changes and less capable of adapting to them.
In an effort to bolster smallholder farmers’ ability to cope with limited market access and frequent drought, Warner collected data from workshop proceedings, focus groups, interviews and surveys within the Arenal-Tempisque Irrigation Project in Guanacaste, Costa Rica. His analysis revealed that farm size, farming tenure, the presence of family members working outside of the agricultural sector, livestock ownership, perceptions of climate change and household reliance on agriculture were determining factors in farmers’ decisions to adjust their livelihoods. His findings have since been used to refine agricultural water management policy in the region.