Knowledge Gaps in Decision-making, Institutions & Heterogeneity

CRIFS research will better assimilate last-mile demand into adaptation work.

Institutions - To what extent do local norms and national policies affect household adaptation decisions, and at what level are solutions most efficient given the nature of the risk?

Heterogeneity - To what extent has the desire for scalable solutions compromised local demand and traction?

SSP Decision-making - To what extent does a narrow conception of consumer choice by researchers lead to incorrect projections of a risk-adjusted benefit calculus for adaptation decisions? For example, are we:

  • Equating the measured risk of an event with the perceived risk, which is influenced by both statistical and qualitative characteristics of risks (control over, experience with, and the dread and reversibility of an event), by individual risk and future orientation, and by demographics and other factors?
  • Missing salient non-financial costs and benefits of the innovation, such as time or social costs?
  • Forgetting that decision-making itself is cognitively costly and can lead to simple decision heuristics?
  • Only considering the risk of the status quo and not the risk of adoption?
  • Ignoring decision biases that arise with uncertainty, such as anchoring, loss, and ambiguity aversion?
  • Assuming that all risk communication is equally salient information?
  • Offering rather than eliciting "choice sets" (and ignoring the associated empowerment)?

We acknowledge important challenges specific to this work: data from low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) is scarce; counterfactuals are seldom available; attitudes, heuristics, risk perceptions, and biases are difficult to measure; strategies that reduce risk are difficult to value; agroecological and institutional heterogeneity do not always align; methods and evidence fall between traditional disciplinary boundaries; and research can be slow relative to the pace of the threats.

To best address these challenges, we intend to increase the utility and accessibility of the available data; make all our work public and open source to encourage broader research and translation; create cross-disciplinary teams within and across the physical and social sciences; blend expertise from different geographies and risk domains with expertise in sub-Saharan African agriculture, and partner with African researchers in both the cross-disciplinary and cross-context cases. In addition to pursuing the foundational research questions, we are maintaining room for demand-driven research - questions that emerge from practitioners and decision-makers in the field.



1. Advancing Risk and Inclusion Assessment and Measurement

  • Evidence reviews of SSP adaptation
  • Defining and measuring risk (temporal and spatial scales) and inclusion in food systems
  • Formulating a risk-informed inclusive agricultural transformation (IAT) framework
  • Open farm household data (web platform) supporting risk and inclusion research

Examples of Work in Progress

  • Conducting a systematic review of SSP adaptation (papers from 2011 onward)
  • Measuring SSP consumption resilience using Nigeria panel data
  • Generating open farm household data on AgQuery+
  • Using machine learning to predict seasonal hunger in Malawi

2. Matching Choices to Risk Contexts and Profile

  • Taxonomy and characterization of empowered and technical adaptive options (primarily, but not only, to climate-induced risks)
  • SSP risk and inclusion profiles
  • Strategies for accommodating heterogeneity in risks and farm/farmer contexts
  • Decision analytic framework for adaptation
  • Accounting for climate impacts on farm services and institutions (e.g., extension, infrastructure, markets)

Examples of Work in Progress

  • Generating SSP risk and inclusion profiles for Ethiopia and Nigeria
  • Creating a decision analytic framework for adaptation, including measured risk and food system risk perceptions, using examples of maize and wheat
  • Documenting the evidence on heterogeneity in extension systems

3. Valuing, Prioritizing, and Communicating Risk Management Strategies

  • Risk-adjusted valuation of assets (including livestock, land, and labor), production output, and key externalities
  • Costs and benefits of adaptation investments, including distributive outcomes
  • Packaging and articulating risks, responses, and returns to key audiences; farmers to policymakers

Examples of Work in Progress

  • Supporting the UW Program on Climate Change graduate student climate communication curriculum capstone
  • Outlining the political economy of risk and inclusion in food systems
  • Modeling the feasibility of West Africa competitive rice markets under climate and policy scenarios