Climate Change and Weather Variability Effects on Cattle Production: Perception of Cattle Keepers in Chikwawa, Malawi

  • Janet Nanganga
  • Andrews C. L. SafalaohEmail author


Climate change and associated weather variability are some of the factors that negatively affect agriculture production in the world. Despite the fact that livestock production is key livelihood and resilience asset of smallholder farmers, more emphasis is placed on the effects of climate change and weather variability on crop production than on livestock production. In Malawi, cattle act as a moving bank and are sold as a coping strategy to mitigate negative effects of climate change and weather variability such as prolonged droughts. However, there is paucity of information on smallholder cattle keepers’ understanding and perception of the effects of climate change and weather variability on cattle production. The aim of this study was to assess the perceived direct and indirect effects of climate change and weather variability on cattle production. Data was collected through interviews using semi-structured questionnaires administered to 100 purposively selected cattle keepers in Ngabu, Chikwawa. Four focus group discussions were also held. Majority (99%) of the respondents indicated that they had some knowledge about the meaning of climate change and weather variability indicators or events such as drought (25.8%), erratic rainfall (22.7%), floods (22.7%), high temperature (18.6%) and strong winds (10.3%). Effects of weather variability were identified as including increased disease incidences (38.4%), heat stress (31.3%), drying up of water sources and reduced water unavailability (32.3%) and reduction in supply of fodder (49.5%). Noteworthy, 88% of the respondents mentioned that they were aware of the causes of weather variability including environmental degradation. The study shows that most cattle keepers understand weather variability and its causes and effects such as feed and water unavailability, which negatively impinge on cattle productivity. It recommends that farmers should adopt adaptation and mitigation measures such as growing pasture in wetlands, fodder preservation and water harvesting to ensure sustainable cattle production amid climate change.


Cattle production Climate change Weather variability Effects 



The authors wish to thank the Norwegian Government-funded Capacity Building for Managing Climate Change (CABMACC) Programme for providing financial support to conduct this research study in Chikwawa, Malawi. The cooperation and support of cattle owners, extension workers and members of the Chikwawa Livestock Association to willingly participate in this research study are highly appreciated.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that there is no conflict of interest.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Animal Science DepartmentLilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural ResourcesLilongweMalawi

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