Empirical evidence has shown that farmers can adapt to climate change by using sustainable land and water management (SLWM) practices that provide local mitigation benefits, reducing or offsetting the negative effects of climate change at the level of the plot, farm, or even landscape. However, adaptation to climate change using SLWM practices in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) remains low. This study was conducted to examine the impact of government policies on adaptation to climate change.
Kenya and Uganda in East Africa and Niger and Nigeria in West Africa were used as case studies. The selection ensured that the transboundary sites had comparable biophysical and livelihood characteristics and that the major difference between the sites across the border was the policies in each subregion. The study used a variety of data sources including satellite imagery data, focus group discussions, and household- and plot-level survey data to determine how land users have responded to climate change and the impacts of their responses on agricultural productivity, climate-related risks, and carbon stock.
Each of the four case study countries offers success stories that enhance adaptation strategies. While Kenya’s policies have strongly supported agricultural research and development as well as an agricultural market environment that has offered incentives to farmers to adopt SLWM, neighboring Uganda has implemented government decentralization and a land tenure system, both of which have contributed to the rise of stronger local institutions that offer opportunities for improved community resource management. In West Africa, Nigeria has long supported irrigation development and recently focused on small-scale irrigation that has increased agricultural production and reduced production risks in the drier, northern states. Even though such irrigation programs were not implemented as part of adaptation to climate change, they have helped farmers to adapt well to climate change. Niger also offers a good example of tree planting and protection, which was successful due to the Rural Code, which gave land users rights to own benefit from trees on their farms and thereby contributed to the regreening of the Sahel. Hence, in all the countries we see the influence of policies that have influenced adoption of SLWM and response to climate change in general, policies that show promise for scaling up.
Scaling up these success stories requires public investment to raise awareness and provide the technological support required for these often knowledge-intensive practices. The relative success of Kenya in promoting soil conservation and fertility measures suggests that large-scale extension programs can be effective but that they require long-term commitment, something that is absent in the common practice of project funding. The long-term extension project in Kenya was also supported by a large number of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) active in land management. These organizations not only complement an extension program but inject a degree of innovation that can lead to the generation of improved SLWM practices. Facilitating the linkages among all development organizations, and with research organizations, would serve to enhance the scaling up process.
Some SLWM practices may require special attention. Specifically, irrigation is touted as an essential ingredient for increased productivity and for climate change adaptation in Africa by numerous organizations, including the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). Irrigation faces many of the same challenges as other SLWM practices but also brings in the element of the need for capital investment (in water storage or distribution) and more effective adaptation to climate change.
Nkonya, Ephraim; Place, Frank; Pender, John; Mwanjololo, Majaliwa; Okhimamhe, Appollonia; Kato, Edward; Crespo, Susana; Ndjeunga, Jupiter; Traore, Sibiry (2011) "Climate Risk Management Through Sustainable Land Management in Sub-Saharan Africa," IFPRI Discussion Paper 01126, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).