Decision-Making to Diversify Farm Systems for Climate Change Adaptation
Abstract, Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems, 2020
On-farm diversification is a promising strategy for farmers to adapt to climate change. However, few recommendations exist on how to diversify farm systems in ways that best fit the agroecological and socioeconomic challenges farmers face. Farmers' ability to adopt diversification strategies is often stymied by their aversion to risk, loss of local knowledge, and limited access to agronomic and market information, this is especially the case for smallholders. We outline seven steps on how practitioners and researchers in agricultural development can work with farmers in decision-making about on-farm diversification of cropping, pasture, and agroforestry systems while taking into account these constraints. These seven steps are relevant for all types of farmers but particularly for smallholders in tropical and subtropical regions. It is these farmers who are usually most vulnerable to climate change and who are, subsequently, often the target of climate-smart agriculture (CSA) interventions. Networks of agricultural innovation provide an enabling environment for on-farm diversification. These networks connect farmers and farmer organizations with local, national, or international private companies, public organizations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and research institutes. These actors can work with farmers to develop diversified production systems incorporating both high-value crops and traditional food production systems. These diversified farm systems with both food and cash crops act as a safety net in the event of price fluctuations or other disruptions to crop value chains. In this way, farmers can adapt their farm systems to climate change in ways that provide greater food security and improved income.