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FAO Assesses Adaptation by Malawian Farmers

fao.epic2 July 2014: The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) has released a publication that assesses incentives and conditioning factors relating to adaptation strategies and their impact on crop productivity in Malawi. The study finds that there is no single strategy for adaptation, which is driven by a number of structural and capacity-related variables.

The working paper, titled 'Climate Variability, Adaptation Strategies and Food Security in Malawi,' published under the FAO's Economics and Policy Innovations for Climate-Smart Agriculture (EPIC) programme, analyzes household-level data collected in 2011 from nationally-representative sample households. Among its key results, the study finds that distinct factors drive farming practice selection, including climactic variables, access to rural institutions and social capital. It concludes that: no single strategy exists for supporting adaptation; adoption of practices is conditioned by that of others; and some practices are complementary while others function as substitutes.

On structural drivers of selection, the study finds that greater climate variability increases the adoption of risk-reducing practices, including sustainable land management (SLM), and reduces the use of inputs with uncertain benefits for risk reduction, such as inorganic fertilizer. The study also discovers positive, albeit heterogeneous, impacts on maize productivity from adoption of modern and SLM inputs.

The study's results support understanding and overcoming barriers to the selection of each practice by distinguishing between structural aspects and potential interventions at household or systemic levels. The analysis also supports the emerging body of literature on climate-smart agriculture (CSA) by finding that: climate change-related effects are an important determinant of practices selected by farmers; selection of farm practices is an important means of adaptation already practised by farmers; and both household and community-level factors are important determinants of adaptive capacity.

The FAO's EPIC programme aims to support the transition to CSA with sound economic and policy analysis, including on climate-smart agricultural policies and practices, and related impacts, effects, costs and benefits. EPIC is supported by the EU, the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) and FAO's Mitigation of Climate Change in Agriculture (MICCA) programme. [EPIC Website] [Publication: Climate Variability, Adaptation Strategies and Food Security in Malawi]