Food system vulnerability amidst the extreme 2010–2011 flooding in the Peruvian Amazon: a case study from the Ucayali region

Abstract

Projections of climate change indicate an increase in the frequency and intensity of climatic hazards such as flooding and droughts, increasing the importance of understanding community vulnerability to extreme hydrological events. This research was conducted in the flood-prone indigenous community of Panaillo, located in the Ucayali region of the Peruvian Amazon, examining how the 2010–2011 flooding affected the food system at community and institutional levels. Drawing upon in-depth fieldwork using participatory research methods over multiple seasons—including semi-structured interviews (n = 74), focus groups, and seasonal food security calendar and historical timeline exercises—the flooding was documented to have created several opportunities for increased fishing and agricultural production in Panaillo. However, households lacked the resources to fully exploit the opportunities presented by the extreme conditions and increasingly turned to migration as a coping mechanism. International aid organizations were drawn to Ucayali in response to the flooding, and introduced additional programming and provided capacity-building sessions for local institutions. However, local institutions remain weak and continue to generally disregard the increasing magnitude and frequency of extremes, documented in the region over the last decade. Moreover, the long-term implications of community-level and institutional responses to the extreme flooding could increase food system vulnerability in the future. This case study highlights the importance of considering both slow and fast drivers of food system vulnerability in the aftermath of an extreme hydrological event.

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Notes

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    Bergman (1980) recorded that the Panaillo population in 1971 was 107.

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Acknowledgments

We would like to express our sincere gratitude to the community of Panaillo for their hospitality and participation in this research, and particularly those community members who participated in focus groups and interviews. We would also like to thank the local institutions that participated in interviews, 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 McGill University Research Ethics Board in Montreal, Canada, and the Institutional Ethics Committee at the Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia in Lima, Peru. We would also like to thank the two anonymous reviewers and the two editorial teams for their contributions to improve this paper.

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Indigenous Health Adaptation to Climate Change Research Group: Dr. Lea Berrang-Ford, Dr. Cesar Carcamo, Dr. Shuaib Lwasa, Didacus Bambaiha Namaya, Dr. Victoria Edge, and Dr. Sherilee Harper at the Department of Geography, McGill University, Burnside Hall 805 Sherbrooke St. W., Montreal, Quebec, Canada H3A 0B9

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Sherman, M., Ford, J., Llanos-Cuentas, A. et al. Food system vulnerability amidst the extreme 2010–2011 flooding in the Peruvian Amazon: a case study from the Ucayali region. Food Sec. 8, 551–570 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12571-016-0583-9

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Keywords

  • Adaptation
  • Climate change
  • Extreme event
  • Flood
  • Food system
  • Indigenous
  • Temporal analogue
  • Peruvian Amazon