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The salience of climate change in farmer decision-making within smallholder semi-arid agroecosystems


Smallholder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa are most susceptible to the impacts of climate change, including longer duration dry-spells and more frequent drought. There is a growing literature examining the psychological determinants of various climate adaptation strategies among smallholder farmers but little attention to how psychological factors vary across adaptation decisions and the underlying motivations for these decisions. We assess climate adaptation in terms of five risk management categories outlined by Agrawal (2009). Using a sample of farming households in Kenya (N = 494), we find that while 98% of smallholders believe that various dimensions of climate change pose a significant threat to their livelihood, these beliefs do not necessarily translate into climate actions. Results show that environmental concerns are not salient motivators for or against adaptation strategies, but food insecurity and household expenses are, suggesting a disconnect between climate beliefs and actions. Future research on decision-making related to climate adaptation within semi-arid agroecosystems should consider that while perceptions of climate change are important in shaping climate adaptive actions, they are not necessarily a salient motivator. Climate change is predicted to have significant negative impacts on food security but concerns about food security are what motivate farmers to adopt practices that will prepare them for climate change.

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Correspondence to K. B. Waldman.

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Waldman, K.B., Attari, S.Z., Gower, D.B. et al. The salience of climate change in farmer decision-making within smallholder semi-arid agroecosystems. Climatic Change 156, 527–543 (2019).

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