Natural Hazards

, Volume 77, Issue 3, pp 2049–2079 | Cite as

Vulnerability and adaptive capacity of community food systems in the Peruvian Amazon: a case study from Panaillo

  • Mya ShermanEmail author
  • James Ford
  • Alejandro Llanos-Cuentas
  • María José Valdivia
  • Alejandra Bussalleu
  • Indigenous Health Adaptation to Climate Change (IHACC) Research Group
Original Paper


Rainfall variability and related hydrological disasters are serious threats to agricultural production in developing countries. Since projections of climate change indicate an increase in the frequency and intensity of climatic hazards such as flooding and droughts, it is important to understand communities’ adaptive capacity to extreme hydrological events. This research uses a case study approach to characterize the current vulnerability and adaptive capacity of the food system to hydrological hazards in Panaillo, a flood-prone indigenous community in the Peruvian Amazon. Participatory methods were utilized to examine how biophysical and socioeconomic factors constrain or enable local adaptive capacity to climatic hazards over time. Seasonal flooding was shown to strongly influence agriculture and fishing cycles. Panaillo residents have developed several adaptive strategies to adjust to hydrological extremes, such as food-sharing and the cultivation of fast-growing crops on riverbeds. However, Panaillo residents generally lack the necessary human, physical, social, and natural resources to effectively employ their adaptive mechanisms as a result of major social and environmental changes in the area. Economic development, low institutional capacity, climate variability, and the assimilation social model in Peru all have profound effects on the food system and health by affecting the ways in which adaptive strategies and traditional livelihoods are practiced. Climate change has the potential to exacerbate these socioeconomic and biophysical drivers and further compromise community food systems in the Peruvian Amazon in the future.


Climate change Adaptation Vulnerability, flood Food security Peru Amazon Food system Indigenous 



We would like to express our sincere gratitude to the community of Panaillo for their hospitality and participation in this research. In particular, we would like to thank those community members who participated in focus groups and interviews, as well as the local institutions that participated in interviews. Additionally, we would like to thank the IHACC team in Lima and Pucallpa and the three Shipibo-Konibo research assistants who supported this work. This work was funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) of Canada’s International Research Initiative on Adaptation to Climate Change, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, McGill University, and a National Geographic Young Explorer Grant. This research was approved by the Institutional Ethics Committee at the Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia in Lima, Peru and the McGill University Research Ethics Board in Montreal, Canada. We would also like to thank the two anonymous reviewers for their contributions to improve this paper.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 100 kb)
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mya Sherman
    • 1
    Email author
  • James Ford
    • 1
  • Alejandro Llanos-Cuentas
    • 2
  • María José Valdivia
    • 2
  • Alejandra Bussalleu
    • 2
  • Indigenous Health Adaptation to Climate Change (IHACC) Research Group
  1. 1.Department of GeographyMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada
  2. 2.Fundación Cayetano HerediaUniversidad Peruana Cayetano HerediaLimaPeru

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