Understanding the divergences between farmer’s perception and meteorological records regarding climate change: a review


How farmers perceive climate change is linked to whether they are responding and adapting to it. However, often this perception does not correspond with what actually happens. Based on a search of empirical studies carried out in Africa and Asia, this paper analyzes two factors that can influence farmers’ perception regarding climate change: expected utility maximization and availability heuristic. While expected utility maximization refers to an expected change in farmers’ well-being, the availability heuristic is a mental shortcut based on the memory of occurrence of events. Generally, empirical studies show that farmers’ perceptions are aligning with meteorological records regarding an increase in temperature. However, while there are no significant variations in rainfall trends, farmers perceive a reduction in rainfall in the last few years. The recent increase in drought frequency and severity may cause this divergence, because it affects farmers’ well-being, and extreme droughts have a central position in peoples’ memory. In this context, our findings suggest that farmers’ perceptions are influenced by economic and psychological issues. Policymakers, extension workers and developers of climate projects need to pay attention to farm and farmers’ characteristics in order to develop mitigation and/or adaptation practices regarding climate change.

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Fig. 1

Source: Based on NASA data

Fig. 2

Source: Based on NASA data

Fig. 3

Source: Simelton et al. (2013)

Fig. 4

Source: authors (2017)

Fig. 5

Source: Based on Clayton et al. (2015) and Hitayezu et al. (2017)


  1. 1.

    Perception is defined in this study as the subjective manifestation of the farmers’ experiences and may be influenced by personal characteristics and socioeconomic factors.

  2. 2.

    Generally, farmers’ perception was obtained by questionnaires, interviews or farmers focal groups.

  3. 3.

    Throughout the last decades, several droughts affected regions of Ethiopia, and many droughts, the whole country Meze-Hausken (2000). According to Degefu (1987), since meteorological recording began, the year of 1972 registered the most devastating drought in Ethiopia. The drought of 2002 mentioned by Meze-Hausken (2004) was considered through farmers’ perceptions as the worst.


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We are grateful to Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq). We wish to thank the valuable suggestions of Professor João Augusto Rossi Borges in an earlier version of this study. We also are sincerely grateful for the comments of all anonymous reviewers. Certainly their notes contributed a lot to the improvement of this paper.

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Correspondence to Cristian Rogério Foguesatto.

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Foguesatto, C.R., Artuzo, F.D., Talamini, E. et al. Understanding the divergences between farmer’s perception and meteorological records regarding climate change: a review. Environ Dev Sustain 22, 1–16 (2020) doi:10.1007/s10668-018-0193-0

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  • Agriculture
  • Availability heuristic
  • Climate risk
  • Expected utility theory
  • Drought
  • Global warming