Evidence to support climate change adaptation in Lesotho, Malawi and Swaziland

Evidence to support climate change adaptation in Lesotho, Malawi and Swaziland

In southern Africa, the predicted 2°C rise in temperature will destabilise farming systems. Coping mechanisms, livelihood strategies and the cost of adaptation options for smallholder farmers are not sufficiently understood in the region because the majority of research is focused on ecological assessment and identifying the vulnerability of households. In addition, most research is conducted at national and regional levels, with a gap in scientific evidence at a local level to inform policy decisions for effective smallholder adaptation.

This study focused on generating empirical evidence to inform the policy and decision making process on how climate change will affect food security and livelihood options for rural communities in semi-arid districts of Lesotho, Malawi and Swaziland.

Key messages

  • in Lesotho, Malawi and Swaziland, at least 15% of moderately vulnerable households are likely to become highly vulnerable under projected changes in climate.
  • adaptation choices are partly influenced by the perceived cost of the available options. For example, around 50% of farmers in Malawi cited high costs as a key barrier limiting the use of chemical fertilizers and adoption of conservation agriculture practices.
  • in Lesotho, a combination of late planting and fertilizer application proved to be the most efficient adaptation option. Use of chemical fertilizers invariably enhanced the effectiveness of the adaptation options used by households.
  • projections indicate an average decline of 20% in maize across three countries by 2050, with a 5-25% decline in land suitable to grow staple cereal crops. This has implications for agronomic practices and critically, increases vulnerability in 21% of households.
  • lack of empirical climate and agronomic data is a major constraint to provision of targeted adaptation solutions and policies in Lesotho, Malawi and Swaziland
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