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The adaptation and mitigation potential of traditional agriculture in a changing climate

Abstract

The threat of global climate change has caused concern among scientists because crop production could be severely affected by changes in key climatic variables that could compromise food security both globally and locally. Although it is true that extreme climatic events can severely impact small farmers, available data is just a gross approximation at understanding the heterogeneity of small scale agriculture ignoring the myriad of strategies that thousands of traditional farmers have used and still use to deal with climatic variability. Scientists have now realized that many small farmers cope with and even prepare for climate change, minimizing crop failure through a series of agroecological practices. Observations of agricultural performance after extreme climatic events in the last two decades have revealed that resiliency to climate disasters is closely linked to the high level of on-farm biodiversity, a typical feature of traditional farming systems.

Based on this evidence, various experts have suggested that rescuing traditional management systems combined with the use of agroecologically based management strategies may represent the only viable and robust path to increase the productivity, sustainability and resilience of peasant-based agricultural production under predicted climate scenarios. In this paper we explore a number of ways in which three key traditional agroecological strategies (biodiversification, soil management and water harvesting) can be implemented in the design and management of agroecosystems allowing farmers to adopt a strategy that both increases resilience and provides economic benefits, including mitigation of global warming.

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Correspondence to Miguel A. Altieri.

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This article is part of a Special Issue on "Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation with Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples" edited by Kirsty Galloway McLean, Ameyali Ramos Castillo, Edwin Castellanos, and Aqqaluk Lynge.

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Altieri, M.A., Nicholls, C.I. The adaptation and mitigation potential of traditional agriculture in a changing climate. Climatic Change 140, 33–45 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-013-0909-y

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-013-0909-y

Keywords

  • Soil Organic Carbon
  • Agroforestry System
  • Small Farmer
  • Traditional Agriculture
  • Extreme Climatic Event