Smallholder Farmers’ Practices and Understanding of Climate Change and Climate Smart Agriculture in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania

Gwambene, B., Saria, J. A., Jiwaji, N.T., Pauline, N.M., Msofe, N.K., Mussa, K.R., Tegeje, J.A., Messo, I., Mwanga, S.S., Shija S.M.Y.


Adverse effects of climate change and variability remain to be a major threat to smallholder farmers and rural livelihoods. It posed a challenge of developing innovative technologies to improve rural livelihoods, environmental conservation and ensuring adoption of such technologies. Climate-smart agriculture (CSA) is used as a mitigation and adaptation option to reduce the negative impacts of climate change and improve agricultural productivity. To achieve the desired objectives, CSA requires a complete package of practices that increase productivity and income, build resilience and reduce green gas emission.  However, adoption is largely dependent on farmers’ understanding, preferences and their capacity and willingness to practice. The study explores smallholder farmers’ understanding of climate change impacts and their proclivity on climate smart agricultural practices. In engaging with smallholder farmers, a range of methods was used, including focus group discussions (FGD), key informant interviews (KI), household questionnaire survey and field observations. Results indicate that less than half (26%) of smallholder farmers interviewed have low knowledge on climate change in the study area, however, they are adapting and coping with the impacts of climate change. The low knowledge, coupled with the low ability to effectively adapt to the impacts of climate change, might have contributed to reduced agricultural yields.  Developing appropriate and feasible climate smart and resilient agriculture practices, is a pre-requisite towards improving food security and income to smallholder farmers. The study suggests the need to consider appropriate and sustainable local-based technologies to increase production. The local-based knowledge and technologies are cost effective, easy to adopt and can be easily out-scaled to other communities within the region. We conclude that the availability of improved local-basedtechnologies alone is not a sufficient condition to bring about the change and transformation among smallholder farmers. Effective institutions and sustained policy support play a significant role in the adoption of CSA practices. There is an urgent need for scientists and users to co-produce the climate information and CSA practices so as to ensure action-oriented recommendations. Therefore, establishing an enabling local environment, including by supporting strong and innovative rural institutions, to increase the uptake of good practices are indispensable.

Keywords: Climate change, climate smart agriculture, Southern Highland, smallholder farmers and perception

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