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Knowledge of climate change and adaptation by smallholder farmers: evidence from southern Ethiopia

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Climate change has the greatest negative impact on low-income countries, which burdens agricultural systems. Climate change and extreme weather events have caused Ethiopia’s agricultural production to decline and exacerbated food insecurity over the last few decades. This study investigates whether farmers’ awareness and perceptions of climate change play a role in climate change adaptation using climate-smart agricultural practices. To collect data, 385 households in Southern Ethiopia were sampled using a multistage sampling. A Heckman probit two-stage selection model was applied to investigate the factors influencing farmers’ perceptions to climate change and adaptation measures through adoption of climate-smart agriculture practices, complemented with key informant interviews and focused group discussions. The results indicated that most farmers (81.80%) perceived that the local climate is changing, with 71.9% reporting increased temperature and 53.15% reporting decreasing rainfall distribution. Therefore, farmers attempted to apply some adaptation practices, including soil and water conservation with biological measures, improved crop varieties, agroforestry, improved breeds, cut and carry system, controlled grazing, and residue incorporation. The empirical results revealed that farmers adaptation to climate change through adoptions of CSA practices was significantly influenced by education, family size, gender, landholding size, farming experience, access to climate information, training received, social membership, livestock ownership, farm income and extension services. The study found that farmers’ perceptions of climate change and variability were significantly influenced by their age, level of education, farming experience, and access to climate information, hence, the need to focus on enhancing the accuracy of weather information, strengthening extension services, and considering a gender-sensitive adaptation approach toward improving farmers’ knowledge and aspirations. Agricultural policies should support the efforts of farmers to increase the reliance on climate risk and alleviate farmers’ difficulties in adopting climate-smart agriculture practices.

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