Behavioural mechanisms and adaptation to climate change: evidence from lab-in-the-field experiments in the upper Blue-Nile basin

Yalemzewd Nigussie

Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU


The literature on climate change adaptation in developing countries focused on the socioeconomic and demographic determinants of adaptation decisions to climate change. Decision behavioural among others is thought to influence the path of innovation uptake related to climate change. We need to improve our understanding on the effect of individual and social preferences on decisions related to adaptation to climate change using field experimental approaches. We use field-in-the-lab experimental evidence combined with survey, personality test, and multi criteria analysis (MCA) for various categories of stakeholders. The data were generated from one of the hotspot areas in developing countries: the upper Blue-Nile basin, Ethiopia. The evidence covers the behavioural mechanisms ranging from individual and social preferences to personality traits. We also tried to understand how preferences of different types are formed by examining the effect of social and environmental factors on preference formation. Adaptation options are also examined from an “agro-ecosystem” perspective; bridging the gap that remained to understand why previous interventions failed to incorporate the issue of agro-ecosystem based adaptation planning. We adhered to understand the range of preferences in decision related to adaptation to climate change. These include individual subjective preferences like risk and rate of time preferences. Through a multiple price elicitation exercises, we find that farmers are highly risk averse and have a high rate of time preferences. Social preferences in terms of cooperative common pool resources (CPR) management were also a subject of analysis. We come with a conclusion that social norms, social roles and elderly role are significantly influencing the formation of cooperative local institutions to manage and use common pool resources. We also indicate that a sustainable management and use of commons can also improve the carbon sink functions in common agricultural, forest and water bodies enabling climate change mitigation possible in developing countries. We also try to put a binding frame by setting out a priority list of adaption options in the upper Blue-Nile basin. This was achieved through a participatory stakeholders’ evaluation of a list of options through a possibly conflicting criteria. The psychological dimensions of personality traits were also revisited and tried to understand how personality traits influence one’s information inquiry process through their effort to adapt to climate change. Accordingly, we found that the personality domain of individuals is highly correlated with their choice of information source and inquiry process. In general, we understand that climate change adaptation process is a dynamic complex phenomenon going beyond the analytical capacity of conventional economics making suit the application of behavioural and experimental economics.

Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Wageningen University
  • van Ierland, Ekko, Promotor
  • Zhu, Xueqin, Co-promotor
  • Kebede, B., Co-promotor, External person
Award date18 Jan 2017
Place of PublicationWageningen
Print ISBNs9789463430425
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jan 2017


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