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Vulnerability analysis of smallholder farmers to climate variability and change: an agro-ecological system-based approach in the Fincha’a sub-basin of the upper Blue Nile Basin of Ethiopia

Tessema, Israel, Simane, Belay
Ecological processes 2019 v.8 no.1 pp. 5
agroecology, basins, climate, climate change, farmers, focus groups, interviews, livelihood, rain, risk, wetlands, Ethiopia
BACKGROUND: Ethiopia is frequently cited as a country that is highly vulnerable to climate variability and change. The country’s high vulnerability arises mostly from climate-sensitive agricultural sector that suffers a lot from risks associated with rainfall variability. The vulnerability factors (exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity) of the agricultural livelihoods to climate variability and change differ across agro-ecological systems (AESs). Therefore, the aim of this study was to analyze AES-specific vulnerability of smallholder farmers to climate variability and change in the Fincha’a sub-basin. We surveyed 380 respondents from 4 AESs (highland, midland, wetland, and lowland) randomly selected. Furthermore, focus group discussion and key informant interviews were also performed to supplement and substantiate the quantitative data. Livelihood vulnerability index was employed to analyze the levels of smallholders’ agriculture vulnerability to climate variability and change. Data on socioeconomic and biophysical attribute were collected and combined into the indices and vulnerability score was calculated for each agro-ecological system. RESULTS: Considerable variation was observed across the agro-ecological systems in profile, indicator, and the three livelihood vulnerability indices-Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change dimensions (exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity) of vulnerability. The lowland AES exhibited higher exposure, low adaptive capacity, and high vulnerability, while the midland AES demonstrated lower exposure, higher adaptive capacity, and lower vulnerability. The wetland and highland AESs scored intermediate results. CONCLUSION: Our results suggest that resilience-building adaptation strategies are vital to reduce the vulnerability of smallholder farmers. The measures taken should consider site-specific agro-ecological system requirements to reduce the vulnerability of smallholder mixed crop-livestock agriculture system. Since the approach based on the long-term realization of the community, any strategy designed based on such assessments is applicable to local condition.