Reducing Subsistence Farmers’ Vulnerability to Climate Change: The Potential Contributions of Agroforestry in Western Kenya


Climate change is predicted to have huge impacts on rural farmers in developing countries, as small-scale farmers are particularly vulnerable to climatic stresses and shocks. Agroforestry, or the use of trees in the cropping system to improve farm productivity, has been put forth as a potential strategy to improve farmers’ ability to adapt to future climate changes. Through a case study in western Kenya, I examine agroforestry’s role in helping subsistence farmers adapt to climate change through both qualitative and quantitative analyses. My results show that farmers are unable to cope with current climatic shocks in a sustainable way. By examining household responses to the most recent floods and droughts I find that often households are forced to engage in erosive coping strategies that threaten their farm’s long-term productivity. Farmers and the general literature agree that the most effective way to cope with future climate variation and shocks will be to improve general livelihoods through increasing farm productivity and enhancing non-farm incomes. My statistical analyses support my qualitative observations that agroforestry techniques can improve farm productivity and household wealth. From these results I conclude that agroforestry practices have the potential to help farmers adapt to climate change through improving general household wellbeing in rural western Kenya. My findings also stress the importance of location-specific evaluations of effective development strategies and the need for enhanced community participation in development practices.


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