Smallholder farmers in eastern Africa and climate change: a review of risks and adaptation options with implications for future adaptation programmes

This article reviews the published evidence of the climatic risks faced by smallholder farmers in eastern Africa and the adaptation strategies these farmers have so far adopted. In addition, the study draws on two detailed case studies in Kenya for a better understanding of the nuances of climate adaptation, requiring a range of measures to be adopted and institutions working together. Findings from the study reveal that the most consistent observation among farmers is that eastern Africa is experiencing increased temperature and decreased rainfall across all its agro-ecological zones. In response to their perceived climatic risks, smallholder farmers in the region are using both short-term and long-term strategies, with the former mainly consisting of coping mechanisms against climate chocks. In addition, the adaptation strategies implemented by the farmers are influenced by agro-ecological conditions which shape their farming systems and institutional settings including proximity to a major city and markets. The case studies highlight the importance of collaborative efforts between key local and external stakeholders in supporting adaptation to climate change. Key lessons are drawn from this study for the development of future adaptation programmes.