- Award ID(s):
- Publication Date:
- NSF-PAR ID:
- Journal Name:
- Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems
- Sponsoring Org:
- National Science Foundation
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Abstract People’s observations of climate change and its impacts, mediated by cultures and capacities, shape adaptive responses. Adaptation is critical in regions of rainfed smallholder agriculture where changing rainfall patterns have disproportionate impacts on livelihoods, yet scientific climate data to inform responses are often sparse. Despite calls for better integration of local knowledge into adaptation frameworks, there is a lack of empirical evidence linking both smallholder climate observations and scientific data to on-farm outcomes. We combine smallholder observations of past seasonal rainfall timing with satellite-based rainfall estimates in Uganda to explore whether farmers’ ability to track climate patterns is associated with higher crop yields. We show that high-fidelity tracking, or alignment of farmer recall with recent rainfall patterns, predicts higher yields in the present year, suggesting that farmers may translate their cumulative record of environmental knowledge into productive on-farm decisions, such as crop selection and timing of planting. However, tracking of less-recent rainfall (i.e., 1–2 decades in the past) does not predict higher yields in the present, while climate data indicate significant trends over this period toward warmer and wetter seasons. Our findings demonstrate the value of smallholder knowledge systems in filling information gaps in climate science while suggesting waysmore »
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The sustainability of agriculture in the American West depends on the capacity of farmers to adapt to water resource constraints. Most US studies of agricultural adaptations measure farmers’ willingness to adopt various water use reduction strategies, meaning we have little empirical data on which strategies farmers implement and how these decisions impact their farms. We use survey data from 265 farmers in southeastern Idaho who, beginning in 2016, were required to cut annual groundwater withdrawals by 4%–20% to identify (1) the adaptation practices farmers implemented; (2) how reported crop yields and farm income were impacted; and (3) how adaptation practices varied by farm and farmer characteristics. We found the most commonly used adaptations were reduced spending, installation of more efficient irrigation systems or less frequent watering, and changing crop rotations. Farmers reported losing on average 7.6% of their yield and 8.4% of their income over the first two years of the water cuts. We found no systematic variation based on specific farm or farmer characteristics. Drawing on these results and prior research, we present a typology of adaptation categories intended to inform future research, allow comparisons to adaptation strategies elsewhere, and assist policymakers in designing effective policy interventions.
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