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Vulnerability to climate change among maize-dependent smallholders in three districts of Ethiopia


Climate change vulnerability may differ among small farming communities and depend on combinations of multiple social and biophysical processes. In this study, we assessed vulnerability to climate change among maize-dependent smallholders in three districts of Ethiopia. Household socio-demographic factors, land use system, access to food, natural hazard, livelihood strategy and social network data were collected and subsequently analysed by the livelihood vulnerability index and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Vulnerability Index approaches. Results show that within the same production system, smallholder farmers experience different degrees of climate change vulnerability. This variation in climate change vulnerability is highly and significantly explained by very localized socio-economic factors such as household educational level, access to drought-resistant crop varieties, extent of family ties with social groups and local organizations, and quality of rural water supply and health infrastructures along with biophysical factors like land size and soil fertility status. It is, therefore, suggested that recognizing smallholder farmers’ relative vulnerability to climate change provides a range of effective coping strategies that would help to better build household resilience capacity and promote sustainable livelihood development. Hence, policymakers and development organizations need to focus on better strengthening human and institutional capacity through enhanced education and continuous training on climate change impact, and efficient and sustainable intensification through crop rotation, fertilizer use, rainwater harvesting and farm diversification that increase productivity by restoring soil and agroecosystem health.

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Source: (Reproduced with permission from WANRD 2015)

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This work was supported by the Ghent University through Bof scholarship (Grant Number bof-01W00514) and the International Foundation for Science (Grant Number IFS-5664). We would also like to thank the two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments that further improved the paper.

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Correspondence to Sisay B. Bedeke.

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Bedeke, S.B., Vanhove, W., Wordofa, M.G. et al. Vulnerability to climate change among maize-dependent smallholders in three districts of Ethiopia. Environ Dev Sustain 22, 693–718 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10668-018-0215-y

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  • Africa
  • Coping strategy
  • Resilience capacity
  • Sustainable livelihood
  • Vulnerability index