Smallholder farmers’ attitudes and determinants of adaptation to climate risks in East Africa

Kelvin M. Shikuku*, Leigh Winowiecki, Jennifer Twyman, Anton Eitzinger, Juan G. Perez, Caroline Mwongera, Peter Läderach

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

126 Citations (Scopus)


Adapting to climate risks is central to the goal of increasing food security and enhancing resilience of farming systems in East Africa. We examined farmers’ attitudes and assessed determinants of adaptation using data from a random sample of 500 households in Borana, Ethiopia; Nyando, Kenya; Hoima, Uganda; and Lushoto, Tanzania. Adaptation was measured using a livelihood-based index that assigned weights to different individual strategies based on their marginal contributions to a household's livelihood. Results showed that farmers’ attitudes across the four sites strongly favored introduction of new crops, changes in crop varieties, and changes in planting times. Farmers disfavored soil, land, and water management practices. At lower levels of adaptation (25% quantile), adaptation index correlated positively with membership to farmers’ groups, household size, sex of the household head, and number of months of food shortage. Farmer group membership enhanced adaptation at intermediate (50% quantile) level whereas access to credit increased adaptation at high (75% quantile) level. Food insecurity, however, correlated negatively with the likelihood to choose individual adaptation strategies suggesting that although households adapted to improve food security status of their households, hunger was a barrier to adaptation. Our findings suggest that providing climate information to inform timely planting, promoting crop diversification, and encouraging adoption of adapted varieties of crops might be successful to enhancing resilience of farming systems in the short-term. In the long-term, increased investment in reducing hunger, encouraging groups formation, and easing liquidity constraints will be required to promote adaptation through implementation of soil, water, and land management strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)234-245
JournalClimate Risk Management
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Climate risks
  • East Africa
  • Farmers’ attitudes
  • Livelihood-based adaptation
  • Rasch analysis


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