Climate-Smart Land Management Decisions in a Changing Climate: Exploring Land Productivity and Livelihood Impacts in the Dabus Sub-basin of the Blue Nile River

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Addis Ababa University


The objective of this research is to investigate autonomous climate-smart adaptation strategies and the impact of these strategies on the livelihood of the smallholder farmers in the Dabus Sub-basin of the Blue Nile River. The study is based on household and plot-level primary data collected from 734 farm households in the wet and dry lowland agro-climatic zones of the Dabus sub-basin. The LVI approach framed within IPCC is customized for the agro-ecology specific vulnerability analysis. The econometric models employed in this study are beyond a single regression equation that are based on smallholder farmers’ utility maximizing behavior and customized into climate change adaptation and impact research. The models include the Heckman sample selectivity probit model, a two stage probit model, a bivariate probit model, the instrumental variable estimation method, the mean-variance approach, and the Propensity Score Matching Method. In the process, the research assessed vulnerability of smallholder farmers to climate change and variability; identified the factors affecting the use of different climate-smart agricultural practices as adaptation strategy; examined the interface among different climate-smart agricultural practices; and identified the impact of the climate-smart land management decisions on crop yield variability and productivity. Based on the results, the dry lowland agro-climatic zone is characterized by a higher exposure and sensitivity to climate stresses with a comparatively limited adaptive capacity as compared to the wet lowland, and this positioned it be more vulnerable to climate change and variability than the wet lowland. Adaptation to climate change in the area is proved to be a two-step process which requires that farmers first perceive climate change and respond in the second step through adaptation. Uses of some external inputs as adaptation strategy are proved to have a negative reciprocal causation on one another implying possibility of substitution between the strategies. Some climate-smart adaptation strategies are also interdependent in terms of sharing the resources at the disposal of the farm households. The study also revealed complementarity between short-term and long-term climate-smart agricultural practices. The climate-smart agricultural practices generally helped smallholder farmers to increase crop productivity through offsetting the production risk at plot and farm level. A positive increase in value of production is realized for those farmers who maintain the physical climate-smart land management practices for longer period. This calls for an intervention that motivate the farmers to make investment in a long-term climate-smart agricultural practices and an incentive mechanism that make them accept longer time horizons in terms of payoff periods. The findings of this study also verbalize that agro-climatic differences determine adaptation decision and hence location specific intervention is required to enhance farmers’ use of climate-smart agricultural practices. Since climate-smart agricultural practices are knowledge and resource intensive, implementation of the practices could be challenged given the limited awareness and resource constraints of smallholder farmers. Hence, scaling up of the practices should be backed by both public and non-public investments to raise awareness and to provide technological support. Failure to do so would adversely affect crop productivity and sustainability of the smallholder agricultural production system. Keywords: Climate change, climate-smart, adaptation, productivity, crop yield variability, impact