Giroux S.A., McCord P., Lopus S., Gower D., Dell’Angelo J., Dickinson S., Chen X., Caylor, K.K., and T.P. Evans (2020) Environmental heterogeneity and commodity sharing in smallholder agroecosystems, PLoS ONE, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0228021
Abstract:Smallholder farmers undertake a number of strategies to cope with climate shocks in a community. The sharing of resources across households constitutes one coping mechanism when environmental shocks differentially impact households. This paper investigates commodity sharing dynamics among households in eight communities in an environmentally heterogeneous highland-lowland area in central Kenya. We use survey data and meteorological data to test whether commodity sharing, measured at the household level by net inflow of commodities, varies across a regional precipitation gradient, and we reveal how sharing fluctuates with rainfall over the course of a year. We find both precipitation and income to be significant predictors of households’ net value of shared commodities. Specifically, farmers who live in drier areas with less income are more likely to receive more commodities than they give. We also find that the length of time a household has been established in the area is significantly related to commodity sharing. Further, commodity sharing follows the pattern of harvest and food storage over the course of the year, with households giving the most commodities at times when food storage levels are higher, that is, post-harvest. The study sheds light on the relationship between commodity sharing as a coping mechanism and environmental heterogeneity in a region prone to seasonal food insecurity.