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Climate change impacts and adaptation for dryland farming systems in Zimbabwe: a stakeholder-driven integrated multi-model assessment

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Decision makers need accurate information to address climate variability and change and accelerate transformation to sustainability. A stakeholder-driven, science-based multi-model approach has been developed and used by the Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Project (AgMIP) to generate actionable information for adaptation planning processes. For a range of mid-century climate projections—likely to be hotter, drier, and more variable—contrasting future socio-economic scenarios (Representative Agricultural Pathways, RAPs) were co-developed with stakeholders to portray a sustainable development scenario and a rapid economic growth pathway. The unique characteristic of this application is the integration of a multi-modeling approach with stakeholder engagement to co-develop scenarios and adaptation strategies. Distribution of outcomes were simulated with climate, crop, livestock, and economic impact assessment models for smallholder crop livestock farmers in a typical dryland agro-ecological zone in Zimbabwe, characterized by low and erratic rainfall and nutrient depleted soils. Results showed that in Nkayi District, Western Zimbabwe, climate change would threaten most of the farms, and, in particular, those with large cattle herds due to feed shortages. Adaptation strategies that showed the most promise included diversification using legume production, soil fertility improvement, and investment in conducive market environments. The switch to more legumes in the farming systems reduced the vulnerability of the very poor as well as the more resourced farmers. Overall, the sustainable development scenario consistently addressed institutional failures and motivated productivity-enhancing, environmentally sound technologies and inclusive development approaches. This yielded more favorable outcomes than investment in quick economic wins from commercializing agriculture.

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