Enabling adaptation? Lessons from the new ‘Green Revolution’ in Malawi and Kenya

Abstract

This article explores the extent to which efforts to improve productivity of smallholder agriculture through a new ‘Green Revolution’ in Sub Saharan Africa are likely to enhance the capacity of smallholder farmers to adapt to the impacts of climate change. Drawing on empirical material from Malawi and Kenya, the paper finds more conflicts than synergies between the pursuit of higher productivity through the promotion of hybrid maize adoption and crop diversification as a strategy for climate change adaptation. This is despite an oft-assumed causal link between escape from the ‘low maize productivity trap’ and progression towards crop diversification as an adaptive strategy. In both countries, a convergence of interests between governments, donors and seed companies, combined with a historical preference for, and dependence on maize as the primary staple, has led to a narrowing of options for smallholder farmers, undermining the development of adaptive capacities in the longer term. This dynamic is linked to the conflation of market-based variety of agricultural technologies, as viewed ‘from the top down’, with diversity-in-context, as represented by site-specific and locally derived and adapted technologies and institutions that can only be developed ‘from the bottom up’.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    This programme is alternately referred to as the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (FISP) and Agricultural Input Subsidy Programme (AISP).

  2. 2.

    Akin Adesina, speaking on behalf of AGRA at a conference to review progress in implementing Kenya’s ‘Strategy for Revitalising Agriculture’ (SRA), Nairobi 11th November 2008.

  3. 3.

    The CIMMYT-led ‘Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa’ (DTMA) http://dtma.cimmyt.org/ and an AATF-brokered public-private partnership named Water-Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA), both with substantial support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation http://wema.aatf-africa.org/ (1 March 2013).

  4. 4.

    These issues are brought into sharp focus in a short film by the University of Sussex-based STEPS Centre, entitled ‘Seeds and Sustainability’ http://vimeo.com/20239062 (1 March 2013).

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Acknowledgments

I would like to thank the anonymous reviewers of this article for their helpful comments.

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Correspondence to Sally Brooks.

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Brooks, S. Enabling adaptation? Lessons from the new ‘Green Revolution’ in Malawi and Kenya. Climatic Change 122, 15–26 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-013-0992-0

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Keywords

  • Cassava
  • Adaptive Capacity
  • Climate Change Adaptation
  • Smallholder Farmer
  • Green Revolution