Skip to main content

Contribution of agroforestry trees for climate change adaptation: narratives from smallholder farmers in Isiolo, Kenya

Abstract

Agroforestry is often praised as a sustainable approach for the adaptation of smallholder farmers to climate change and variability in Africa. The environmental, economic, and social benefits of agroforestry can contribute to climate change adaptation efforts; however, most studies to date are quantitative and do not focus on specific natural hazards. To address these gaps, this study draws from the concepts of vulnerability and adaptation to explore how individuals from 20 smallholder farming households in semi-arid Isiolo County, Kenya have benefited from their agroforestry trees during drought and flood events. A total of 83 qualitative interviews were conducted with both male and female household heads. The interviews were recorded, and interview text was coded into major themes. The results highlight (1) the contributions of agroforestry trees to reducing sensitivity and increasing adaptive capacity to drought and flood events, as well as (2) the key characteristics of drought-important and flood-important agroforestry trees. In both drought and flood events agroforestry had an important role to play in reducing sensitivity, largely through improving environmental conditions (shade, soil erosion, windbreaker, microclimate regulation), and increasing adaptive capacity by providing critical tree products and financial benefits (fruit, food, firewood, construction materials, fodder, traditional medicines, money from sales of fruit products). Agriculture is often considered the livelihood strategy most vulnerable to climate change, and thus better understanding how to adapt agriculture to the impacts of climate change is critical for both the livelihoods of smallholder farmers and global food security efforts.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3

Availability of data and materials

Data available upon reasonable request.

References

  • Adger NW (2006) Vulnerability. Glob Environ Change 16:268–281. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2006.02.006

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Amadu FO, Miller DC, McNamara PE (2020) Agroforestry as a pathway to agricultural yield impacts in climate-smart agriculture investments: evidence from southern Malawi. Ecol Econ 167:106443

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Awazi NP, Tchamba MN (2019) Enhancing agricultural sustainability and productivity under changing climate conditions through improved agroforestry practices in smallholder farming systems in Sub-Saharan Africa. Afr J Agric Res 14(7):379–388. https://doi.org/10.5897/AJAR2018.12972

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Awazi NP, Tchamba MN, Avana TM-L (2019) Climate change resilience choices of small-scale farmers in Cameroon: determinants and policy implications. J Environ Manag 250:109560. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvman.2019.109560

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bernard HR (2011) Research methods in anthropology: qualitative and quantitative approaches, 5th edn. AltaMira Press, Lanham

    Google Scholar 

  • Bisong FE, Larwanou M (2019) Evaluation of forestry-based adaptation practices in flood and drought conditions, and determinants of their adoption in Anglophone Africa. Int For Rev 21(S1):22–37

    Google Scholar 

  • Cope M (ed) (2005) Coding qualitative data. In: Qualitative research methods in human geography. Oxford University Press, Oxford

    Google Scholar 

  • De Giusti G, Kristjanson P, Rufino MC (2019) Agroofrestry as a climate change mitigation practice in smallholder farming: evidence from Kenya. Clim Change 153:379–394. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-019-02390-0

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Funk C, Eilerts G, Davenport F, Michaelsen J (2010) A climate trend analysis of Kenya-August 2010, US Geological Survey, Fact Sheet, 3074. Accessed from: https://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/2010/3074/pdf/fs2010-3074.pdf

  • Gomes LC, Bianchi JJJA, Cardoso IM, Fernandes RBA, Fernandes Filho EI, Schulte RPO (2020) Agroforestry systems can mitigate the impacts of climate change on coffee production: a spatially explicit assessment in Brazil. Agr Ecosyst Environ 294:106858. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agree.2020.106858

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • IPCC (2014) Annex II: Glossary [Mach KJ, Planton S, von Stechow C (eds)]. In: Climate change 2014: synthesis report. Contribution of working groups I, II and III to the fifth assessment report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change [Core Writing Team, R. K. Pachauri and LA Meyer (eds)]. IPCC, Geneva, pp 117–130

  • Lal R, Regnier E, Eckert DJ, Edwards WM, Hammond R (1991) Expectations of cover crops for sustainable agriculture. In: Hargrove W (ed) Cover crops for clean water. Soil and Water Conservation Society Publication, Ankey, pp 1–11

    Google Scholar 

  • Lin BB (2010) The role of agroforestry in reducing water loss through soil evaporation and crop transpiration in coffee agroecosystems. Agric For Meteorol 150:510–518. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agrformet.2009.11.010

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mati BM, Muchiri JM, Njenga K, de Vries FP, Merrey DJ (2005) Assessing water availability under pastoral livestock systems in drought-prone Isiolo District, Kenya, Working Paper 106. International Water Management Institute, Colombo, Sri Lanka

  • Nyong AP, Mgankam TM, Felicite TL (2019) Enhancement of resilience to climate variability and change through agroforestry practices in smallholder farming systems in Cameroon. Agrofor Syst. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10457-019-00435-7

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Olufemi BA, Williams O, Gilbert O, Joshua O (2018) Assessing vulnerability of Maasai Pastoralist in Kenya to climate change and variability. Int J Agric Environ Sci 3(6):97–107

    Google Scholar 

  • Otuoma J, Kinyamario J, Ekaya W, Kshatriya M, Nyabenge M (2009) Effects of human–livestock–wildlife interactions on habitat in an eastern Kenya rangeland. Afr J Ecol 47:567–573

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Overland I, Sovacool BK (2020) The misallocation of climate research funding. Energy Res Soc Sci 62:101349

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Padovan MP, Cortez VJ, Navarrete LF, Navarrete ED, Deffner AC, Centeno LG, Munguia R, Barrios M, Vilchez-Mendoza JS, Vega-Jarquin C, Costa AN, Brook RM, Rapidel B (2015) Root distribution and water use in coffee shaded with Tabebuia rosea Bertol and Simarouba glauca DC. Compared to full sun coffee in suboptimal environmental conditions. Agrofor Syst 89:857–868

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Paudel P, Rimal S, Ghimire P, Parajuli K (2019) Agro-forestry for enhancing adaptation of local community against drought in hilly region of Nepal. Int J Agric Innov Res 7(4):440–445

    Google Scholar 

  • Quandt A (2017) Building livelihood resilience in semi-arid Kenya: what role does agroforestry play? Dissertation, Environmental Studies Program, University of Colorado Boulder

  • Quandt A (2019) Variability in perception of household livelihood resilience and drought at the intersection of gender and ethnicity. Clim Change 152:1–15. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-018-2343-7

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Quandt A, Kimathi A (2017) Perceptions of the effects of floods and droughts on livelihoods: lessons from arid Kenya. Int J Clim Change Strateg 9(3):337–351. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJCCSM-11-2014-0132

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Quandt A, Neufeldt H, McCabe JT (2017) The role of agroforestry in building livelihood resilience to floods and droughts in semi-arid Kenya. Ecol Soc 22(3):10

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Quandt A, Neufeldt H, McCabe JT (2018) Building livelihood resilience: what role does agroforestry play? Clim Dev. https://doi.org/10.1080/17565529.2018.1447903

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Reppin S, Kuyah S, de Nergaard A, Oelofse M, Rosenstock TS (2020) Contribution of agroforestry to climate change mitigation and livelihoods in Western Kenya. Agrofor Syst 94:203–220

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Smit B, Wandal J (2006) Adaptation, adaptive capacity and vulnerability. Glob Environ Change 16:282–292

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Tran L, Brown K (2019) The importance of ecosystem services to smallholder farmers in climate change adaptation: learning from an ecosystem-based adaptation pilot in Vietnam. Agrofor Syst 93:1949–1960. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10457-018-0302-y

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Verchot LV, Van Noordwijk M, Kandji S, Tomich T, Ong C, Albrecht A, Mackensen J, Bantilan C, Anupama KV, Palm C (2007) Climate change: linking adaptation and mitigation through agroforestry. Mitig Adapt Strat Glob 12:901–918. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11027-007-9105-6

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wheaton EE, Maciver DC (1999) A framework and key questions for adapting to climate variability and change. Mitig Adapt Strat Glob Change 4:215–225

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

My gratitude goes out to the individuals in Burat and Kinna who spent hours with me answering my endless questions. I would also like to thank those that helped me develop this research project including Henry Neufeldt, J. Terrence McCabe, Lisa Dilling, Joel Hartter, Max Boykoff, and Myles Osborne. Lastly, I would like to thank the volunteers and staff from the Kenya Red Cross Society—Isiolo Branch Office who assisted with this project, and also made my year in Isiolo both educational and enjoyable.

Funding

This study was funded by the US Borlaug Fellows in Global Food Security Graduate Research Grant (Grant Number 206766) which supported field and research costs for Quandt.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Amy Quandt.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

The author declares that they have no conflict of interest.

Human participants

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethnical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. IRB Protocol Number 14-0059.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in this study.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Quandt, A. Contribution of agroforestry trees for climate change adaptation: narratives from smallholder farmers in Isiolo, Kenya. Agroforest Syst 94, 2125–2136 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10457-020-00535-0

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10457-020-00535-0

Keywords

  • Adaptation
  • Agroforestry
  • Climate change
  • Kenya
  • Sensitivity
  • Vulnerability