Adaptive capacity of mountain community to climate change: case study in the Semien Mountains of Ethiopia

  • Zigiju Yohannes
  • Menberu TeshomeEmail author
  • Mehretie Belay


Climate vagary has exposed farming communities in Semien Mountains (North West Ethiopia) to repeated droughts and famines in recent years. Most of the farming communities in this area have failed to produce sufficient food and have become dependent on foreign food donations. Yet, the impact, vulnerability and adaptive capacity of the community to climate change in the above-mentioned mountain areas are not well documented. This paper examined the temporal temperature and rainfall trends, and the communities’ vulnerability to climate change as well as their adaptive capacities to the changing climate to fill the existing information gaps regarding issues called forth in the Semien Mountains and other highland environments. Data were gathered using questionnaires, interviews, focus group discussions and field observations. Information from meteorological recordings was also collected for this study. The collected data were analyzed using standardized precipitation index, livelihood vulnerability index, bi-logit model and descriptive statistics. The results confirmed highest climatic variability manifested in rainfall and temperature changes. Rainfall decreased by a total of 573.46 mm (by ≈ 16.38 mm per year on average) from 1979 to 2013. Mean annual temperature increased from 18.54 °C in 1979 to 20 °C in 2013. In this light, majority of the respondents (85%) reported facing climatic hazards. About 70% of them perceive that climate change has decreased land productivity and numerous others (74%) felt its future implications on farmlands. Recurrent crop and animal diseases were indicated by 95.21 and 93.41% of the sampled households, respectively. These climate change-induced incidents were exacerbated by lower adaptive capacities and limited institutional services. Livestock rearing, livelihood diversification, stone bund building, tree planting, organic fertilizer application, selling home articles, soil bund construction, rainwater harvesting, utilizing synthetic fertilizers and preparing hand-dug wells were important adaptive strategies used and ranked 1–10, respectively, by the studied households. Extension services, family size, farm income, access to training and livestock ownership found influential during the use of composting, terracing and tree planting to reduce the negative impact of climate change. Farmer-to-farmer extension appeared to significantly reduce composting, terrace building and tree planting at p < 0.01 level. This calls for further social and cultural related studies to explore the reasons. Climate change adaptation strategies should thus focus on enhancing households’ access to key livelihood assets such as education (training), family size, farm income, extension service, and livestock ownership opportunities.


Climate change Adaptive capacity Logit model Mountain community Ethiopia 



The authors wish to thank the Agriculture Office experts working at woreda levels, DAs and teachers, and the sample farmers for providing the necessary information during the field work. Field data collection was supported by University of Gondar, Postgraduate Program.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Geography and Environmental StudiesUniversity of GondarGondarEthiopia
  2. 2.Department of Geography and Environmental StudiesDebre Tabor UniversityDebre TaborEthiopia
  3. 3.Department of Geography and Environmental StudiesBahir Dar UniversityBahir DarEthiopia

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