Food insecurity and compound environmental shocks in Nepal: Implications for a changing climate

Heather Randell, Chengsheng Jiang, Xin Zhong Liang, Raghu Murtugudde, Amir Sapkota

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Food insecurity is a key global health challenge that is likely to be exacerbated by climate change. Though climate change is associated with an increased frequency of extreme weather events, little is known about how multiple environmental shocks in close succession interact to impact household health and well-being. In this paper, we assess how earthquake exposure followed by monsoon rainfall anomalies affect food insecurity in Nepal. We link food security data from the 2016 Nepal Demographic and Health Survey to data on shaking intensity during the 2015 Gorkha earthquake and rainfall anomalies during the 2015 monsoon season. We then exploit spatial variation in exposure to the earthquake and monsoon rainfall anomalies to isolate their independent and compound effects. We find that earthquake exposure alone was not associated with an increased likelihood of food insecurity, likely due in part to effective food aid distribution. However, the effects of rainfall anomalies differed by severity of earthquake exposure. Among households minimally impacted by the earthquake, low rainfall was associated with increased food insecurity, likely due to lower agricultural productivity in drought conditions. Among households that experienced at least moderate shaking, greater rainfall was positively associated with food insecurity, particularly in steep, mountainous areas. In these locations, rainfall events disproportionately increased landslides, which damaged roads, disrupted distribution of food aid, and destroyed agricultural land and assets. Additional research on the social impacts of compound environmental shocks is needed to inform adaptation strategies that work to improve well-being in the face of climate change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number105511
JournalWorld Development
StatePublished - Sep 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier Ltd


  • Climate change
  • Drought
  • Earthquake
  • Food security
  • Landslides
  • Nepal


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