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Micro-level analysis of farmers’ adaptation to climate change in Southern Africa

This discussion paper is based on micro-level analysis of adaptation that focuses on tactical decisions farmers make in response to seasonal variations in climatic, economic, and other factors in Southern Africa.  The document is based on a cross-section database of three countries: South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The data used in this study was collected as part of the Global Environment Facility/World Bank Climate Change and African Agriculture Project. 

The key findings from this study include:

  • farmers are aware that the region is getting warmer and drier with increased frequency of droughts and changes in the timing  of rains
  • farmers identified lack of credit and information concerning climate change forecasting (both short-term variations and long-term climate change); rationing of inputs and lack of seed resources as important constraints
  • only less than 40 percent of the respondents are not adopting any adaptation strategies
  • important adaptation options being used by farmers include crop diversification, using different crop varieties, changing planting and harvesting dates,increased use of irrigation, increased use of water and soil conservation techniques, and diversifying from farm to non-farm activities
  • the important determinants of farm-level adaptation options are access to credit, free extension services, farming experience, mixed crop and livestock farms, private property and perception of climate change

The important policy recommendations made out of this study are:

  • incorporating adaptation strategies is important  in order for farmers to achieve their farming objectives such as food and livelihood security
  • there is need to support farmers in increasing adaptation measures by providing the necessary resources such as credit, information and training. This can significantly help farmers increase and sustain high productivity levels even under changing climatic conditions
  • governments need to support research and development that develops and diffuses the appropriate technologies to help farmers adapt to changes in climatic conditions

This study concludes that a better understanding of farmer perceptions regarding long-term climatic changes, current adaptation measures and their determinants would be important for future adaptation in the agricultural sector to be a success.