Rural smallholders in Papua New Guinea (PNG) are facing increased food insecurity due to climatic variability. In 1997-98 an ENSO-related drought destroyed subsistence sweet potato crops and caused widespread food shortages. Dry conditions spread across Southeast Asia and severely diminished water supplies resulting in widespread famine affecting 700,000 to 1.2million people.
Such famine events are highly uncharacteristic and this drought was at least as severe as any other in the twentieth century. From studies of precipitation in Australia, we know that the strength of the relationship between ENSO and precipitation can vary with interdecadal oscillations in the Pacific, whether this holds true for PNG is not known.
This project will have two aims i) To model climatic vulnerability and the reoccurrence of extreme ENSO-related drought events in PNG ii) To investigate alternative agricultural practices which provide greater livelihood resilience than sweet potato based practices.