Understanding farmers' perceptions and adaptations to climate change and variability

The case of the Limpopo Basin, South Africa

Climate change is expected to have serious environmental, economic, and social impacts on South Africa. In particular, rural farmers, whose livelihoods depend on the use of natural resources, are likely to bear the brunt of adverse impacts. The extent to which these impacts are felt depends in large part on the extent of adaptation in response to climate change. This research uses a “bottom-up” approach, which seeks to gain insights from the farmers themselves based on a farm household survey. Farm-level data were collected from 794 households in the Limpopo River Basin of South Africa for the farming season 2004-2005. The study examines how farmer perceptions correspond with climate data recorded at meteorological stations in the Limpopo River Basin and analyzes farmers’ adaptation responses to climate change and variability. A Heckman probit model and a multinomial logit (MNL) model are used to examine the determinants of adaptation to climate change and variability. The statistical analysis of the climate data shows that temperature has increased over the years. Rainfall is characterized by large interannual variability, with the previous three years being very dry. Indeed, the analysis shows that farmers’ perceptions of climate change are in line with the climatic data records. However, only approximately half of the farmers have adjusted their farming practices to account for the impacts of climate change. Lack of access to credit was cited by respondents as the main factor inhibiting adaptation. The results of the multinomial logit and Heckman probit models highlighted that household size, farming experience, wealth, access to credit, access to water, tenure rights, off-farm activities, and access to extension are the main factors that enhance adaptive capacity. Thus, the government should design policies aimed at improving these factors.

Gbetibouo, Glwadys Aymone
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International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)
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