Multipurpose agroforestry as a climate change resiliency option for farmers: an example of local adaptation in Vietnam
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Increasing frequency, intensity and duration of severe weather events are posing major challenges to global food security and livelihoods of rural people. Agriculture has evolved through adaptation to local circumstances for thousands of years. Local experience in responding to severe weather conditions, accumulated over generations and centuries, is valuable for developing adaptation options to current climate change. This study aimed to: (i) identify tree species that reduce vulnerability of cropping systems under climate variability; and (ii) develop a method for rapidly assessing vulnerability and exploring strategies of smallholder farmers in rural areas exposed to climate variability. Participatory Rural Appraisal methods in combination with Geographical Information Systems tools and statistical analysis of meteorological data were used to evaluate local vulnerability to climate change and to investigate local adaptation measures in two selected villages in Vietnam, one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change. The low predictability of severe weather events makes food crops, especially grain production, insecure. This study shows that while rice and rain-fed crops suffered over 40 % yield losses in years of extreme drought or flood, tree-based systems and cattle were less affected. 13 tree species performed well under the harsh local climate conditions in home and forest gardens to provide income, food, feed and other environmental benefits. Thus, this research suggests that maintenance and enhancement of locally evolved agroforestry systems, with high resilience and multiple benefits, can contribute to climate change adaptation.
The authors are grateful for the generous funding from the Swedish Research Council for Environment, Agricultural Sciences and Spatial Planning (Formas) and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency’s (Sida) (contract number 2007-5201-8159-50). We give special thanks to Ha Tinh farmers’ association for their support in the fieldwork and the people of Cam My for actively participating in our research. We thank Dr Nguyen Manh Khai for statistical analyses, Dr Ho Dac Thai Hoang for GIS participatory mapping and MSc Huynh Anh Phuong for PRA work in village 4. Mr. Robert Finlayson, Dr. Elisabeth Simelton and anonymous reviewers assisted by commenting on the text.
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