Evaluating Smallholder Farmers’ Perceptions of Climate Change
Climate change and variability has affected smallholder farmers in various ways. Without meaningful adaptation, many households dependent on agriculture will be more food insecure and become more vulnerable than ever to droughts, poverty, and other household emergencies. The objective of this research was to understand the perceptions of smallholder farmers on long term climate change and variability and to compare them to empirical historical long-term climate trends since perceptions are hypothesized to greatly influence climate adaptations. Cross-sectional data was collected from randomly selected farming households from purposively selected wards of Chiredzi District of Zimbabwe. Descriptive statistics and linear trend analyses were used to describe, analyze, and compare farmer perceptions and actual long-term historical trends in climate, respectively. Research findings showed that a very high proportion of smallholder farmers perceived adverse changes in long-term climate, which was in line with results of the linear trend analyses of empirical time series climate data from 1980 to 2011. Although farmers are diverse in terms of their demographic and socio-economic attributes as well as resource endowments, they were shown to exhibit almost homogeneous perceptions of long-term changes in climate. These perceptions are critical for determining, shaping up, and understanding smallholder farmer adaptation decisions at the farm-level. Policy implications are that climate resilient development interventions targeted at such communities have a high likelihood of success as uptake of adaptation strategies is highly favoured by their correct conception and appreciation of climate change in the district.