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Recovery and adaptation after the 2015 Nepal earthquakes: a smallholder household perspective

Kathleen Epstein, Department of Earth Sciences, Montana State University
Jessica DiCarlo, Department of Geography, University of Colorado Boulder
Robin Marsh, Institute for the Study of Societal Issues, University of California, Berkeley
Bikash Adhikari, Institute of Forestry, Tribhuvan University, Pokhara, Nepal
Dinesh Paudel, Department of Sustainable Development, Appalachian State University
Isha Ray, Energy and Resources Group & Berkeley Water Center, University of California, Berkeley
Inger E. Måren, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Bergen, Norway


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Communities reliant on subsistence and small-scale production are typically more vulnerable than others to disasters such as earthquakes. We study the earthquakes that struck Nepal in the spring of 2015 to investigate their impacts on smallholder communities and the diverse trajectories of recovery at the household and community levels. We focus on the first year following the earthquakes because this is when households were still devastated, yet beginning to recover and adapt. Through survey questionnaires, focus group discussions, open-ended interviews, and observations at public meetings we analyze physical impacts to farming systems and cropping cycles. We investigate respondent reports of loss and recovery through a new social-ecological recovery assessment instrument and find that diversification of livelihoods and access to common resources, alongside robust community institutions, were critical components of coping and recovery. There was widespread damage to subsistence farming infrastructure, which potentially accelerated ongoing transitions to cash crop adoption. We also find that perceptions of recovery varied widely among and within the typical predictors of recovery, such as caste and farm size, in sometimes unexpected ways. Although postdisaster recovery has material and psychosocial dimensions, our work shows that these may not change in the same direction.

Key words

assessment; community resources; coping strategies; disaster; farming systems; Himalaya

Copyright © 2018 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087