Adaptation of smallholder farmers to climate change and variability in Northern Cameroon

Authors: Louise Abongu*, University of Reading. School of Agriculture, Policy and Development. Earley Gate Campus, Whiteknights Road, Reading, RG6 7BE, United Kingdom, Henny Osbahr, University of Reading. School of Agriculture, Policy and Development. Earley Gate Campus, Whiteknights Road, Reading, RG6 7BE, United Kingdom, Alex Arnall, University of Reading. School of Agriculture, Policy and Development. Earley Gate Campus, Whiteknights Road, Reading, RG6 7BE, United Kingdom
Topics: Coupled Human and Natural Systems
Keywords: Adaptation to climate change, vulnerability, agriculture, adaptive capacity, decision making, perceptions
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Studio 6, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Top down approaches have been the dominant approach for assessment of the impacts of climate change on agricultural. These external ways of viewing things have proven to be unrealistic for smallholder farmers since they are one-size fit, neglect their perceptions and decision making processes. Therefore this paper focuses on the role of smallholder farmers’ perceptions and resulting action for pathways of change. It presents analysis of how climate change is placed and understood within peoples’ own everyday experience of vulnerability, how it is shaped and how perceptions of climate change lead to action. It draws from an empirical study carried out in two communities which present similar as well as contrasting geographical and livelihood characteristics in northern Cameroon. A combination of semi-structured interviews with 118 farmers, in-depth case histories and key informant interviews were used. The study showed that vulnerability to climate change is a social construction where it is related to place and identity. Farmers proactively and reactively respond to multiple stressors and changes observed in their environment by making incremental changes to agricultural practice and household strategies but also innovative responses, agricultural intensification, livelihood diversification and commercialization. Nevertheless very localized, agency related and structural factors they experienced interacted to shape these decisions where they viewed some livelihood decisions as beyond their individual and collective control. The findings have implications for policy and practice seeking to put in place agricultural transformations which focus attention on understanding local perceptions since these influence farmers actions.

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