Impacts of Agricultural Decision Making and Adaptive Management on Food Security in Africa

Friday, 19 December 2014: 2:55 PM
Kelly K Caylor1, Tom P Evans2, Lyndon D Estes3, Justin Sheffield1, Beth A Plale2 and Shahzeen Attari2, (1)Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, United States, (2)Indiana University Bloomington, Bloomington, IN, United States, (3)Princeton Univ, Princeton, NJ, United States
Despite massive investments in food aid, agricultural extension, and seed/fertilizer subsidies, nearly 1 billion people in the developing world are food insecure and vulnerable to climate variability. Sub-Saharan Africa is most vulnerable, as approximately 25% of its people are undernourished (FAO/FAOSTAT 2013) and 96% of its cropland is rainfed (FAO 2002). The ability of subsistence farmers to respond to changes in water availability involves both inter-and intra-seasonal adaptation. Adaptive capacity diminishes over the season as decisions are made, resources are used, and the set of possible futures becomes restricted. Assessing the intra-seasonal adaptive capacity of smallholders requires integrating physical models of hydrological and agricultural dynamics with farmer decision-making at fine temporal (e.g. weekly) and spatial (e.g. crop field) scales. However, there is an intrinsic challenge to modeling the dynamics of these sociohydrologic systems, because important and uncharacterized spatial and temporal scale mismatches exist between the level at which the water resource is best understood and the level at which human dynamics are more predictable. For example, the skill of current process-based land surface models is primarily confined to short-term (daily to weekly), national- to regional-scale assessments, and reliable agricultural yield estimates and forecasts for small-scale farming systems remain elusive. In contrast, process-based social science modeling has focused on agent-based approaches that generate fine-scale (individual to community) dynamics over rather coarse time scales (yearly to decadal). A major obstacle to addressing this mismatch is the fundamental fact that the highest skill domain of one framework is essentially unpredictable in the other. We present a coupled sociohydrological observation framework designed to addressing this gap, and demonstrate its utility to understand relationships between climate variability, decision making, and crop production for subsistence agriculturalists in Kenya and Zambia.