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Small scale farmers’ vulnerability to climatic changes in southern Benin: the importance of farmers’ perceptions of existing institutions

Abstract

Farmers in rural Africa use a number of adaptive strategies to cope with observed climatic changes and their impacts on agriculture. Most studies on adaptive capacity focus on socio-economic parameters (such as poverty or education), and few provide detailed analysis on the role played by different institutions at local level, and the effects of how these institutions are perceived on farmers’ adaptation. Semi-structured interviews were conducted among 46 households from seven villages in southern Benin (West Africa), and among representatives of several institutions at the local level. Half the participants were involved in Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) development projects and half were independent farmers. Results indicate that independent farmers mostly use non-agricultural coping strategies (loans, work in town) while project farmers mainly use agricultural adaptive strategies (improved seed varieties). Lack of adaptive capacity of independent farmers is linked to weak State institutions at the local level. Due to their lack of efficiency and high corruption rates, local State representatives are mistrusted. NGOs are trusted and seek for help, even by independent farmers. Even if NGOs do not have climate change adaptation in their agendas, they promote activities, which help reduce farmers’ vulnerability. Although our results are limited to south-western Benin, they question the way adaptation is promoted today, for instance through the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change (through the National Adaptation Programmes of Action).

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Acknowledgements

We are grateful to Edwin Zaccaï, the ULB-CEDD and our Mini-Arc fund for making this research possible. We are also thankful to Ago Expedit and the Beninese NGO A2D for organizing our field surveys in several villages of Southern Benin and for setting up interviews with Ministries and local authorities. We also thank all the participants in this study for their willingness and time. This article was performed while the lead author was a Fellowship of the Belgian American Educational Foundation.

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Correspondence to Marie-Ange Baudoin.

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Baudoin, MA., Sanchez, A.C. & Fandohan, B. Small scale farmers’ vulnerability to climatic changes in southern Benin: the importance of farmers’ perceptions of existing institutions. Mitig Adapt Strateg Glob Change 19, 1195–1207 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11027-013-9468-9

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11027-013-9468-9

Keywords

  • Climate Change
  • Vulnerability
  • Perceptions
  • West Africa
  • Adaptive strategies
  • Agriculture