Developing a holistic assessment framework in Kenya for climate adaptation: A people-centered climate-smart agriculture approach for small-scale farmers in heterogeneous rural agroecological zones

PhD Project

Rural households, comprising of men and women, agricultural systems, and agroecological zones are heterogeneous, implying climate impacts – and the value of adaptation strategies – will vary within and between these populations. Climate change is dynamic, locally specific, and manifests differently across genders, agroecological zones (AEZs), socioeconomic, socioecological, biophysical, and environmental profiles. Although people, environments, or ecosystems within specific heterogeneous AEZs face or share equal climates, climate change unequivocally metes asymmetric and disproportionate effects, with natural conditions, resources-dependent smallholders, and agroecosystems, arguably, more prone and at risk, given their centrality in agricultural food production systems. It is, therefore, neither likely that they experience climate effects symmetrically, nor have similar adaptive capacities.

Even more, women, marginalized and disadvantaged smallholders within this already vulnerable category will be most at risk and disproportionately pushed or affected, further beyond the overall smallholder group’s exposure, and vulnerability. This is attributable to inherent, deeply rooted biases and discriminatory sociocultural traditions, beliefs, and norms regarding gender roles, women especially. These include lack of or limited agency; decision-making power; access to, control over, ownership, and use of productive resources, such as land; institutional support-service barriers limiting access to, amongst others, agricultural extension services, financial resources such as credit and loans; and suchlike. What’s more even, even within similar AEZs and household headship, heterogeneities exist.

Thus following, a key shortfall of previous climate impact assessments that the current study posits, is the sparsity of information on how impacts are distinctively and disparately felt, responded to, and adapted to by incongruent, gender-disaggregated and AEZ-differentiated smallholder groups of Climate-Smart-Agriculture Technologies, Innovations and Management Practices (CSATIMPs) adopters and non-adopters. In this regard, holistic research into the social, economic, and environmental effects or impacts of climate change (including adapting to the effects, through adopting CSATIMPs) that accounts for heterogeneities in both smallholders’ gender and AEZs, have not garnered robust rigor and attention in rural Kenya. This is despite CSATIMPs encompassing all three goals.

Since the livelihoods of the rural-poor smallholders are tied to natural resources, policies, and strategies addressing climate change and natural resource degradation have been designed, unfortunately with unquantifiable results or impacts, due to inadequate evidence-based research tailored for specific genders and heterogeneous AEZs at the local micro plot, household, community, and village scale levels.

The research thus adopts and argues for greater pluralism in the underlying scientific discourse, by adapting interdisciplinarity between the agricultural economics methods, with geo-informatics and geospatial ones, in the spirit of sharing with interfacing disciplines, thus broadening the underlying research methodology and resulting evidence base. By fostering greater professional interaction among these disciplines, novel methods can pinpoint to new sustainability pathways. Overall, this research will rely on the triangulation multimethodology in attempting to fill the gaps.

This research is funded by the World Wide Fund for Nature, Inc. (WWF) Russell E. Train Education for Nature Program (EFN). Learn more about the project on the WWF website.


Header image credit: Shibire Bekele