Exploring farmers' perceptions of drought in Tanzania and Ethiopia

M.F.W. Slegers

Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU


Development actions focusing on land degradation in Sub-Saharan Africa have not been particularly successful in changing farmers’ agricultural practices towards a more sustainable use of natural resources. Over time, programs have become more localized and participative, which is a positive step forward. However, these programs still depart from the productivity-reducing problems that are identified and perceived by scientists. Subsistence farmers in this region believe that other problems, such as drought are bigger constraints to them. Very little is known about how subsistence farmers in semi-arid East Africa perceive drought. The aim of this research is to bridge this gap between farmers and scientists to improve the impact of interventions aimed at improving agricultural productivity. The research focuses on two study areas within Tanzania and Ethiopia, where during the period between 2004 and 2006, sociological and biophysical studies were conducted.
Both case studies demonstrate the inter-relationship of human and natural systems. This is also part of farmers’ knowledge. Farmers’ perceptions of drought relate to the scientific concept of agricultural drought. Rainfall patterns are perceived to be negatively affected by deforestation, while soil erosion and continuous cultivation diminish soil fertility and a soil’s capacity to retain water. Farmers recognize that one has to be an active farmer to be productive and to withstand drought conditions. No one-size-fits-all solution exists for which SWC strategies to use, or for strategies to deal with climate variability and drought. Actions have to be area-specific and focused on local practices and the constraints that farmers have to deal with. Farmers’ strategies for dealing with the insecurity of the rains are multifocal. Interventions should target these multiple sectors and spheres in which people are engaged. The seemingly different problems of land degradation and drought are linked. Rather than “bridging a gap”, the issue is to find where both paths are connected. To achieve this, emphasis should lie on integrated studies and on improving the interaction between farmers and scientists.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Wageningen University
  • Stroosnijder, Leo, Promotor
  • de Graaff, Jan, Co-promotor
Award date7 Nov 2008
Place of PublicationS.l.
Print ISBNs9789085852407
Publication statusPublished - 2008


  • drought
  • farmers
  • perception
  • ethiopia
  • tanzania
  • climatic change
  • desertification


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