Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2019

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department

Social Work

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



Nearly 20 % of the current world population are small-scale producers living in rural areas who rely on agriculture and related activities to support their families (IFAD, 2016; World Bank, 2008). Despite the almost 76 billion USD of official development assistance committed to agriculture improvement projects and associated activities over the past decade, many of the intended beneficiaries remain poor and struggle to meet their basic needs. The lack of success in addressing rural poverty highlights the need for quality research focused on understanding what type of intervention/s could help rural communities sustainably improve their livelihood security.

The goal of this dissertation is to conduct a formative participatory assessment of the contextual facilitators and barriers to livelihood security in Guangaje Centro, Tingo Pucará, and Curinge, three rural indigenous communities in the Andes of Ecuador. Using mixed methods, the dissertation examines a range of factors, including economic and natural resource trends and the impact of seasonality on income and food availability, that are believed to be contributing to the diminished resiliency and increased livelihood vulnerability of the three study communities.

Study findings indicate that soil degradation linked to land overuse and erosion have led to decreasing agriculture production and economic hardship. Current planting and harvesting cycles suggest the likelihood of close to 10 months of food insecurity and increased climatic variability has exacerbated already existing periods of seasonal hunger. These issues are compounded by the fact that households have limited human, physical, and financial assets, which limits their resiliency during times of stress or shock. This challenging dynamic is believed to have negatively impacted the health of young children and their mothers and forced many community members to migrate to cities in search of work. The cultural changes associated with migration have led many participants to feel that they are losing their identity as indigenous people. Based on these findings, the author determined that an intervention centered on addressing the challenges of land overuse/soil fertility and increased climate variability through agroecology, improved water retention, and crop storage is likely to be acceptable, appropriate and feasible in the current context and positively impact the long-term resiliency of the study communities.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Carolyn Lesorogol Lora Iannotti

Committee Members

Ana A. Baumann, Patrick Fowler, Jean-Francois Trani,


Permanent URL: https://doi.org/10.7936/j057-gd95