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Title: Investigating the factors that lead to the construction of gendered perceptions of climate variability and change of communal farmers in agro-ecological zones II and III of Zimbabwe
Author: Horsfield, Gareth
ISNI:       0000 0004 6061 1591
Awarding Body: University of Reading
Current Institution: University of Reading
Date of Award: 2016
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Abstract:
Farmers’ perceptions of changes in their climate are inextricably linked to the livelihood decisions that they make and their ability to bolster their adaptive capacity and reduce their vulnerability to climate variability and change. Yet research has shown that smallholder farmers’ experiences and interpretations of climate variability and change do not translate into perceptions that accurately align with the climate record and thus have considerable consequences for their ability to adapt and reduce their vulnerability to climatic stresses and shocks. Moreover, research has tended to concentrate on farmer’s experiences of weather and climate as the principal factor in the construction of their perceptions, whilst overlooking the role of non-climatic factors. The study takes a social constructivist approach and gendered perspective to investigate farmer perceptions of climate variability and change in the communal areas of agro-ecological zones II and III of Zimbabwe, the climatic and nonclimatic factors that lead to the gendered construction of perceptions and the relationship that exists between farmers’ perceptions and those held by research, development and extension actors. Utilizing a mixed methods approach that integrated participatory research tools, a farmer questionnaire, in-depth interviews with farmers and a range of actors and historical climate analysis, the study found no significant change in long-term rainfall trends, but clearly significant increases in temperatures were observed. Farmer’s perceptions of temperature aligned more closely with the climate record than their perceptions of changes in rainfall parameters. Importantly, farmer’s perceptions of changes in rainfall and temperature parameters and overall belief that the climate is changing were significantly gendered, with male farmers’ perceptions tending to be more heightened and negative than those of female farmers, whose overall perceptions tended to align more closely with the climate record. Findings emphasize a number of cognitive mechanisms and mismatches that distort, amplify and attenuate farmer’s experiences of weather and climate and contribute to heightened negative perceptions of climate variability and change. The study demonstrates that these experiences contribute to farmer belief that the climate is changing to a far lesser extent than was originally assumed and that perceptions of temperature change play no statistically significant role in the construction of overall farmer belief that that the climate is changing. Further, findings illustrate the tendency of farmers to attribute changes in the environment and farming system directly to changes in climatic parameters, overlooking a host of non-climatic stressors that have complex and interrelated impacts on the communal farming system. Notably, changes in communal demographics and the broader economic environment have the ability to impact the manner in which farmers perceive weather and climate, with these factors contributing significantly to the construction of farmer belief that the climate is changing. Additionally, the role of weather and climate information was explored, demonstrating that male farmers had greater access to and trust in formal sources of information and consequently had greater exposure to inaccurate climate forecasts and emerging climate change narratives, leading to heightened expectations of climatic change. Findings demonstrate the centrality of gender in determining the ability of individuals to interact with and process experiences of weather and climate, weather and climate information, normative perceptions and mythologies that exist around past climate and agricultural production. Lastly, findings demonstrate that the absence of accurate and timely historical and short-term weather and climate information increases the potential for farmer (mis)perceptions to be incorporated into the perceptions held by research, development and extension actors, increasing the likelihood that actors will transfer misperceptions back to farmers in the work they carry out, creating a self-perpetuating cycle of misperception that contributes to farmer’s heightened negative perceptions of climate variability and change. The study highlights the importance of provision of timely historic and short-term weather and climate information to farmers and actors, as a means of reducing farmer misperception and increasing their capacity to make appropriate livelihood decisions that will reduce their vulnerability to climatic variability and change.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID: uk.bl.ethos.703325  DOI: Not available
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