Smallholder farmer resilience to water scarcity

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Water scarcity poses one of the most prominent threats to the well-being of smallholder farmers around the world. We studied the association between rural livelihood capitals (natural, human, social, financial, and physical) and resilience to water scarcity. Resilience was denoted by farmers’ self-reported capacity to have avoided, or adapted to, water scarcity. Proxies for livelihood capitals were collected from two-hundred farmers in South Sulawesi, Indonesia, and their associations with a typology denoting water scarcity impacts analyzed with a Taylor-linearized multinomial response model. Physical and natural assets in the form of irrigation infrastructure and direct access to water sources were saliently associated with overall resilience (avoidance and adaptation) to water scarcity. Years of farming experience as a form of human capital asset was also strongly associated with resilience to water scarcity. Factors solely associated with the capacity to adapt to water scarcity were more nuanced with social capital assets showing closer associations. A household with a larger number of farm laborers had a higher likelihood of being unable to withstand water scarcity, but this relationship was reversed among those who managed larger farming areas. We discuss possible mechanisms that could have contributed to resilience, and how public policy could support smallholder farmers cope with water scarcity.

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