, Volume 47, Issue 7, pp 794–805 | Cite as

Post-disaster agricultural transitions in Nepal

  • Jessica DiCarloEmail author
  • Kathleen Epstein
  • Robin Marsh
  • Inger Måren
Research Article


In Spring 2015, a series of earthquakes and aftershocks struck Nepal. The earthquakes caused significant changes in labor and land availability, cash income needs, and land quality. We examine how these post-earthquake impacts converged with ongoing agricultural shifts. Earthquake-related socio-economic and landscape changes specifically motivate the adoption of cardamom, Amomum subulatum, a high-value ecologically beneficial, and low labor commercial crop. We investigate reasons for the increased interest in cardamom post-earthquake, and challenges associated with it. We find that adopting cardamom serves as an important post-disaster adaptation. However, more broadly, unevenly distributed interventions coupled with the high capital costs of agricultural transition exacerbate social differentiation in communities after the disaster. Adoption is often limited to economically better off smallholder farmers. This paper extends previous research on disasters and smallholder farming by highlighting the specific potential of disasters to accelerate agricultural transitions and resulting inequality from the changes.


Cardamom Disasters Himalaya Rural differentiation Small-scale agriculture 



Village Development Committee


District Agricultural Development Office


Ministry of Agriculture


United Nations


High-value crop


Tropical Fruits Rootstock Development Center


Lowland plains


Meters above sea level

Amomum subulatum

(Latin) Black cardamom, also known as Nepal cardamom

Alnus nepalensis

(Latin) Nepalese alder; utis in Nepali


(Nepali) Irrigated fields; typically used to cultivate rice and wheat


(Nepali) Rainfed fields; typically used to cultivate maize and millet



We heartily thank the participants from Charikot, Sundrawati and Boch in Dolakha District, Nepal, for spending time with the research team and contributing to this study. We thank collaborators at ForestAction Nepal: Bikash Adhikari, Govinda Paudel, Naya Sharma Paudel and Dil Bahadur Khatri, for their fieldwork assistance. We thank Isha Ray, Emily Yeh, Sarah Turner, Kripa Jagannathan, Veronica Jacome, Galen Murton, Rupak Shresta and Dinesh Paudel for their review, generous comments and guidance, and Michael MacDonald for the study location map. Funding and support was provided by the American Alpine Club, the Peder Sather Fellowship, a joint collaborative of the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Bergen, and ©Patagonia.

Supplementary material

13280_2018_1021_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (33 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 34 kb)


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Copyright information

© Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeographyUniversity of Colorado BoulderBoulderUSA
  2. 2.Department of Earth SciencesMontana State UniversityBozemanUSA
  3. 3.Institute for Study of Societal IssuesUniversity of California BerkeleyBerkeleyUSA
  4. 4.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of BergenBergenNorway

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