Smallholder crop choice norms and climate change impacts: View from the bottom to the top of the Blue Nile Highlands, Ethiopia

Authors: Dereje Ademe, Debre Markos University, Michael Eggen*, University of Wisconsin - Madison, Mutlu Ozdogan, University of Wisconsin - Madison, Ben Zaitchik, Johns Hopkins University, Belay Simane, Addis Ababa University, Guillermo Baigorria, University of Nebraska - Lincoln, Amit Timilsina, University of Nebraska - Lincoln
Topics: Coupled Human and Natural Systems, Spatial Analysis & Modeling, Cultural and Political Ecology
Keywords: climate change impacts, Ethiopia, agriculture, crop modeling, crop choice
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 10:00 AM / 11:40 AM
Room: Oakley, Sheraton, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Crop choice is one aspect of agricultural management that is often seen as a component of potential adaptation pathways to address climate change impacts to agriculture. For smallholders in the developing world, cultural norms, social, spatial and environmental concerns are important considerations in crop choice and must be accounted for before promoting one crop over another based on yield potential. It is important to understand how different crops which anchor a smallholder’s limited farmland might fare under climate change while addressing the contextual aspects of the farmer’s use of different crops. This research studied climate change impacts to multiple crops across four agroecosystems in the Blue Nile Highlands using mechanistic crop models and locally calibrated cultivars. Additionally, surveys, focus groups, and in-depth interviews were conducted to understand norms of crop choice and management. Results show opportunities and challenges across agroecosystems given current trends in crop choice. At lower altitudes C4 crops suffer yield losses, but poor soils, food insecurity and farmer risk aversion make it difficult to promote higher yielding but higher input varieties. At higher altitudes C3 crops have potential for yield increases, but acidic and degraded soils currently lead to conversion of farmland to Eucalytpus’ plantation. Values behind these dynamics may be preserved even as management changes under changing climate. By acknowledging the spatially- and culturally-contingent aspects of crop choice, modeling of climate change impacts to agriculture may better tailor studies and report results for use by policymakers and extension staff, avoiding false choices based primarily on yield.

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