S116 Incorporating Climate Data into Analysis of Seasonal Hunger in Malawi

Sunday, 22 January 2017
4E (Washington State Convention Center )
Margaret Beetstra, University of Washington, Seattle, WA; and C. L. Anderson, P. Biscaye, K. P. Harris, J. Merfeld, and T. Reynolds

In many parts of the world, precipitation data is not readily available. This problem is particularly evident in rural Sub-Saharan Africa, including Malawi. In the same regions with limited climate data, many people experience hunger for a portion or all of the year, particularly in the months preceding harvest when food prices tend to be highest. Many people living in rural Malawi depend upon agriculture for their livelihoods. Precipitation trends play a major role in determining when to plant, which crops to plant, and the resulting crop yields. We analyze Malawian seasonal hunger in the context of precipitation data to determine whether and to what extent rainfall impacts the timing and intensity of hunger. For our analysis, we use data from the Malawi Integrated Household Panel Survey (IHPS), which incorporates climate data from WorldClim and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) data. Using statistical and spatial analysis, we explore how variability in precipitation and the date of first harvest (which depends largely on precipitation trends) changes the likelihood that a household experiences either seasonal or chronic hunger. The variation in rainfall does not correspond directly to variation in seasonal hunger, so other factors, including household coping and prevention strategies, become hypothesized factors related to whether a household experiences seasonal hunger or not. We also use regression analysis to understand the correlations between seasonal hunger, household and farm characteristics, and on- and off- farm coping and prevention strategies. We find that total rainfall in the reference growing season does have a significant relationship with seasonal hunger, but the significance disappears when enumeration area and wave fixed effects are taken into consideration. This suggests that although rainfall impacts yield and therefore hunger, it is not the primary driving factor for determining if a household is likely to experience seasonal or chronic hunger in a given year.
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