Climatic Change

, Volume 83, Issue 3, pp 301–322

Adaptation to climate change and variability: farmer responses to intra-seasonal precipitation trends in South Africa

  • David S. G. Thomas
  • Chasca Twyman
  • Henny Osbahr
  • Bruce Hewitson
Article

Abstract

We describe the nature of recent (50 year) rainfall variability in the summer rainfall zone, South Africa, and how variability is recognised and responded to on the ground by farmers. Using daily rainfall data and self-organising mapping (SOM) we identify 12 internally homogeneous rainfall regions displaying differing parameters of precipitation change. Three regions, characterised by changing onset and timing of rains, rainfall frequencies and intensities, in Limpopo, North West and KwaZulu Natal provinces, were selected to investigate farmer perceptions of, and responses to, rainfall parameter changes. Village and household level analyses demonstrate that the trends and variabilities in precipitation parameters differentiated by the SOM analysis were clearly recognised by people living in the areas in which they occurred. A range of specific coping and adaptation strategies are employed by farmers to respond to climate shifts, some generic across regions and some facilitated by specific local factors. The study has begun to understand the complexity of coping and adaptation, and the factors that influence the decisions that are taken.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Adger WN (2000) Institutional adaptation to environmental risk under the transition in Vietnam. Ann Assoc Am Geogr 90:738–758CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Beg N, Morlot JC, Davidson O, Afrane-Okesse Y, Tyani L, Denton F, Sokona Y, Thomas JP, La Rovere EL, Parikh JK (2002) Linkages between climate change and sustainable development. Climate Policy 2:129–144CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Berry S (1989) Social institutions and access to resources. Africa 59:41–55CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Blaikie PM, Brookfield HC (1987) Land degradation and society. Routledge, Taylor & Francis Books, 200 pGoogle Scholar
  5. Bratton M (1987) Drought, food and the social organization of small farmers in Zimbabwe. Drought and hunger in Africa: denying famine a future. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, pp. 213–244Google Scholar
  6. Brown JD (2004) Knowledge, uncertainty and physical geography: towards the development of methodologies for questioning belief. Trans Inst Br Geogr 29:367–381CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bulkeley H (2001) Governing climate change: the politics of risk society? Trans Inst Br Geogr 26:430–447CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Campbell DJ (1999) Response to drought among farmers and herders in Southern Kajiado District, Kenya: a comparison of 1972–1976 and 1994–1995. Hum Ecol 27:377–416CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Campbell DJ, Olson JM (1991) Environment and development in Kenya: flying the kite in Kajiado District. Centen Rev 35:295–314Google Scholar
  10. Chambers R (1995) Poverty and livelihoods: whose reality counts? IDS Discussion paper 347. IDS, Sussex University, UKGoogle Scholar
  11. Cook C, Reason CJC, Hewitson BC (2004) Wet and dry spells within particularly wet and dry summers in the South African summer rainfall region. Clim Res 26:17–31Google Scholar
  12. Corbett J (1988) Famine and household coping strategies. World Dev 16:1099–1122CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Crane RG, Hewitson BC (2003) Clustering and upscaling of station precipitation records to regional patterns using self-organizing maps (SOMS). Clim Res 25:95–107Google Scholar
  14. Demeritt D, Dyer S (2002) Dialogue, metaphors of dialogue and understandings of geography. Area 34(3):229–241CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Denton F, Sokona Y, Thomas JP (2000) Climate change and sustainable development strategies in the making: what should west African countries expect? OECD, ENDA-TM. Dakar, SenegalGoogle Scholar
  16. Desanker P, Magadza C et al (2001) Africa. In: IPCC (ed) Climate change. Impacts, adaptations and vulnerability. CUP, Cambridge, pp 489–531Google Scholar
  17. Dessai S, Hulme M (2003) Does climate policy need probabilities? Tyndall centre for climate change research working paper 34. UEA, NorwichGoogle Scholar
  18. Eakin H (2000) Smallholder maize production and climate risk: a case study from Mexico. Clim Change 45:19–36CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Ellis F (1998) Household strategies and rural livelihood diversification. J Dev Stud 35:1–38Google Scholar
  20. Few R (2003) Flooding, vulnerability and coping strategies: local responses to a global threat. Progress in Development Studies 3:43–58CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hewitson BC, Crane RG (2002) Self-organizing maps: applications to synoptic climatology. Clim Res 22:13–26Google Scholar
  22. Hulme M (2003) Abrupt climate change: can society cope? Philos Trans R Soc A 361:2001–2019CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Huq S, Reid H (2004) Mainstreaming adaptation in development. IDS Bull-Inst Dev Stud 35:15–19Google Scholar
  24. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2001) Third Assessment Report. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UKGoogle Scholar
  25. Kasperson JX, Kasperson RE (eds) (2001) Global environmental risk. United Nations University, Toronto and Earthscan, London, UKGoogle Scholar
  26. Kikar GA (2000) Synthesis report for the vulnerability and adaptation assessment section: South African country study on climate change. In: Proceedings of the Presentation at the Workshop on Measuring the Impacts of Climate Change on Indian and Brazilian Agriculture. World Bank, Washington DC, 5–7 MayGoogle Scholar
  27. Klein RJT, Nicholls RJ, Thomalla F (2003) Resilience to natural hazards: how useful is this concept? Environ Hazards 5:35–45CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Levey KM, Jury MR (1996) Composite intraseasonal oscillations of convection over southern Africa. J Climate 9:1910–1920CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Mason SJ, Jury MR (1997) Climate variability and change over Southern Africa: a reflection on underlying processes. Prog Phys Geogr 21:23–50Google Scholar
  30. Mason SJ, Waylen PR, Mimmack GM, Rajaratnam B, Harrison JM (1999) Changes in extreme rainfall events in South Africa. Clim Change 41:249–257CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Metz B, Berk M, Elzen M d, Vreis B d, Vuuren DV (2002) Towards an equitable global change regime: compatibility with article 2 of the climate change convention and the link with sustainable development. Climate Policy 2:211–230CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Meze-Hausken E (2004) Contrasting climate variability and meteorological drought with perceived drought and climate change in Northern Ethiopia. Clim Res 27:19–31Google Scholar
  33. Mortimore MJ, Adams WM (2001) Farmer adaptation, change and ‘crisis’ in the Sahel. Glob Environ Change 11:49–57CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Moser CON (1998) The asset vulnerability framework: reassessing urban poverty reduction strategies. World Dev 26:1–19CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Nicholson SE (2001) Climatic and environmental change in Africa during the last two centuries. Clim Res 17:123–144Google Scholar
  36. O’Connor TG, Kiker GA (2004) Collapse of the Mapungubwe society: vulnerability of pastoralism to increasing aridity. Clim Change 66:49–66CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Olson JM, Misana S, Campbell DJ, Mbonile M, Mugisha S (2004) A research framework to identify the root causes of land use change leading to land degradation and changing biodiversity: Lucid Project, ILRI, NairobiGoogle Scholar
  38. Philip LJ (1998) Combining quantitative and qualitative approaches to social research in human geography – an impossible mixture? Environ Plann A 30(2):261–276CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Reason CJC (2001) Subtropical Indian Ocean SST dipole events and southern African rainfall. Geophys Res Lett 28:2225–2227CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Robledo C, Fischler M, Patino A (2004) Increasing the resilience of hillside communities in Bolivia: has vulnerability to climate change been reduced as a result of previous sustainable development cooperation? Mt Res Dev 24:14–18CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Rocheleau D, Thomas B, Wangari E (1996) Feminist political ecology: global issues and local experiences. Routledge, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  42. Roncoli C, Ingram K (2001) The costs and risks of coping with drought: livelihood impacts and farmers’ responses in Burkina Faso. Clim Res 19(2):119–132Google Scholar
  43. Salinger MJ, Sivakumar MVK, Motha R (2005) Reducing vulnerability of agriculture and forestry to climate variability and change: workshop summary and recommendations. Clim Change 70:341–362CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Smit B, Pilifosova OO et al (2001) Adaptation to climate change in the context of sustainable development and equity. In: IPCC climate change. Impacts, adaptations and vulnerability. CUP, Cambridge, pp 879–967Google Scholar
  45. Sokona Y, Denton F (2001) Climate change impacts: can Africa cope with the challenges? Climate Policy 1:117–123CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Stirling A (2003) Risk, uncertainty and precaution: some instrumental implications from the social sciences. In: Berkhout F, Leach M, Scoones I (eds) Negotiating environmental change: new perspectives from the social sciences. Edward Elgar, Cheltenham, pp 33–76Google Scholar
  47. Tennant WJ, Hewitson BC (2002) Intra-seasonal rainfall characteristics and their importance to the seasonal prediction problem. Int J Climatol 22:1033–1048CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Thomas PK, Sumberg J (1995) A review of the evaluation and use of tropical forage legumes in sub-Saharan Africa. Agric Ecosyst Environ 54:151–163CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Thomas DSG, Twyman C (2005) Good or bad rangeland? Hybrid knowledge, science, and local understandings of vegetation dynamics in the Kalahari. Land Degrad Dev 15:215–231CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Thornton PK, Fawcett RH, Galvin KA, Boone RB, Hudson JW, Vogel CH (2004) Evaluating management options that use climate forecasts: modelling livestock production systems in the semi-arid zone of South Africa. Clim Res 26:33–42Google Scholar
  51. Todd M, Washington R (1998) Extreme daily rainfall in Southern Africa and Southwest Indian Ocean tropical-temperate links. S Afr J Sci 94:64–70Google Scholar
  52. Tompkins E (2005) Planning for climate change in small islands: insights from national hurricane preparedness in the Cayman Islands. Glob Environ Change 15:139–149CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Turner BL II (2002) Contested identities: human-environment geography and disciplinary implications in a restructuring academy. Ann Assoc Am Geogr 92:52–74CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Tyson PD, Lee-Thorp J, Holmgren K, Thackeray JF (2002) Changing gradients of climate change in Southern Africa during the past millennium: implications for population movements. Clim Change 52:129–135CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Usman M, Reason CJC (2004) Dry spell frequencies and their variability over Southern Africa. Clim Res 26:199–211Google Scholar
  56. Valsiner J (2000) Data as representations: contextualising qualitative and quantitative research strategies. Social Science Information 39(1):99–113CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Vogel C (2000) Usable science: an assessment of long-term seasonal forecasts amongst farmers in rural areas of South Africa. S Afr Geogr J 82:107–116Google Scholar
  58. Vogel C (2005) Seven fat years and seven lean years? Climate change and agriculture in Africa. IDS Bull 36:30CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Walker PA (2005) Political ecology: where is the ecology? Prog Hum Geogr 29:73–82CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Washington R, Todd M (1999) Tropical-temperate links in Southern African and Southwest Indian Ocean satellite-derived daily rainfall. Int J Climatol 19:1601–1616CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Washington R, Downing TE, New M, Ziervogel G, Bharwani S, Bithell M (2005) Climate outlooks and agent-based simulation of adaptation in Africa. Tyndall Centre Final Report T2.32, UEA, NorwichGoogle Scholar
  62. World Bank (2000) Can Africa claim the 21st century? World Bank, Washington DCGoogle Scholar
  63. Ziervogel G, Downing TE (2004) Stakeholder networks: improving seasonal climate forecasts. Clim Change 65:73–101CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Zimmerer KS (1994) Human geography and the new ecology: the prospect and promise of integration. Ann Assoc Am Geogr 84:108–125CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • David S. G. Thomas
    • 1
  • Chasca Twyman
    • 2
  • Henny Osbahr
    • 1
  • Bruce Hewitson
    • 3
  1. 1.School of GeographyOxford University Centre for the Environment and Tyndall Centre for Climate Change ResearchOxfordUK
  2. 2.Department of GeographyUniversity of SheffieldSheffieldUK
  3. 3.Department of Environmental and Geographical ScienceUniversity of Cape TownCape TownSouth Africa

Personalised recommendations