Kathleen Epstein, Jessica DiCarlo, Robin Marsh, Isha Ray & Inger Måren
Case Studies in the Environment.
Publication year: 2017

Abstract

Environmental disasters, such as hurricanes, landslides, and earthquakes, are pervasive and disproportionately affect rural and poor populations. The concept of resilience is typically used in disaster scenarios to describe how a community or person is able to “bounce back” from a disaster event. At the same time, resilience theory also contends that disasters, or environmental shocks, can produce or initiate profound changes in social and ecological systems. This case uses a post-disaster resilience assessment to examine how the series of earthquakes that hit central Nepal in 2015 impacted farming communities. Mid-montane smallholder farming communities near the epicenters of the earthquakes were the most affected and the associated damages impeded traditional and subsistence agricultural practices. Our results show how some aspects of the Nepali farming social–ecological system (SES) bounced back more quickly than others and how farmers used various types of coping strategies, including the adoption of labor-saving cash crops as part of their post-disaster recovery. The increased interest in cash crops after the earthquake accelerates an ongoing transition toward more market activities in subsistence communities and illustrates the potential of environmental shocks to transform and change SESs.