Bespoke Adaptation in Rural Africa? An Asset-Based Approach from Southern Ethiopia

  • Rahwa Kidane
  • Martin ProwseEmail author
  • Andreas de Neergaard
Original Article


Debates on adaptation in rural Africa rarely consider how responses to climate variability vary by wealth group. This study examines differences across wealth groups based on principal component analysis and cluster analysis triangulated with participatory methods. Results indicate that perceptions of weather variability and extreme events are detected by most households regardless of wealth status. The most common responses—using drought-resistant crops and changing planting dates—are also similar across groups. However, there are significant differences in the type of adaptation options adopted by wealthier and poorer farmers: the former intensify agriculture through improved seed varieties, fertiliser and manure; the latter depend on craft activities, seasonal migration and support from relatives and neighbours. Overall, our findings suggest that measuring asset holdings could allow a differentiated approach to supporting adaptation across socio-economic groups in rural regions in Ethiopia and Africa more broadly.


Smallholders Adaptation Wealth groups Ethiopia Africa 


Les débats sur l'adaptation en Afrique rurale prennent rarement en compte la façon dont les réponses à la variabilité du climat varient selon le niveau de richesse d’un groupe. Cette étude examine les différences entre groupes de divers niveaux de richesse, par l'analyse des principaux composants et l'analyse par grappes, ainsi qu’avec des méthodes participatives. Les résultats indiquent que la plupart des ménages détectent la variabilité des conditions météorologiques et les phénomènes extrêmes, quel que soit leur niveau de richesse. Les stratégies les plus courantes – telles qu’utiliser des semences résistantes à la sécheresse et changer les dates de plantation – sont également semblables entre les groupes. Toutefois, il existe des différences significatives dans le type d'options d'adaptation choisies entre les agriculteurs les plus riches et les plus pauvres: les premiers intensifient l'agriculture grâce à l'amélioration des variétés de semences, des engrais et du fumier; ces derniers dépendent des activités artisanales, de la migration saisonnière et du soutien familial et du voisinage. Dans l'ensemble, nos résultats suggèrent que mesurer le niveau de richesse des ménages pourrait permettre la mise en place d’une approche différenciée pour soutenir l'adaptation dans les divers groupes socio-économiques des régions rurales en Éthiopie et, plus largement, en Afrique.



The authors wish to thank TEAGASC project staff for facilitating fieldwork and the Danish government for funding which allowed this study to be completed.


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Copyright information

© European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes (EADI) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rahwa Kidane
    • 1
  • Martin Prowse
    • 2
    Email author
  • Andreas de Neergaard
    • 3
  1. 1.Geography, Environment and Population, School of Social SciencesUniversity of AdelaideAdelaideAustralia
  2. 2.Department of Human GeographyLund UniversityLundSweden
  3. 3.Faculty of Social SciencesUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagen KDenmark

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