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Title: Smallholder farming systems, adaptive capacity, and climate change in Uganda : insights for adaptation planning
Author: Dixon, Jami Louise
ISNI:       0000 0004 5363 2802
Awarding Body: University of Leeds
Current Institution: University of Leeds
Date of Award: 2014
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Scientific progress and developments in technology have improved our understanding of climate change and its potential impacts on smallholder farming systems in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). However, the persistence of such smallholder farming systems, despite multiple exposures to climate hazards, demonstrates a capacity to respond or adapt, i.e. adaptive capacity. There is potential to gain useful insights from how smallholder farmers have mobilised their adaptive capacity to identify how they may adapt to future climate hazards. However, empirical studies that explore and link past and present experiences with future climate projections are lacking. Using smallholder farming systems in Uganda as a case study, this thesis addresses this gap. The thesis develops and applies a framework for understanding farming system adaptive capacity (FSAC) across different points in time. It uses a mixed-method, multi-level approach, combining a historical analysis of farming systems and adaptive capacity (1960-2012) with agricultural adaptations to 2030s’ rainfall projections. It integrates quantitative and qualitative data from household surveys, focus group discussions, and semi-structured interviews, using a systems approach. Bringing such elements together offers an opportunity to advance understanding of smallholder farming systems and adaptation in the context of climate changes. Findings provide insight into the dynamic nature of adaptive capacity and also enable the identification of factors that enable or constrain adaptive capacity at different levels. Over time, households that are able to maintain flexibility and diversity at the farm level are better able to respond to climate hazards. Current agricultural policy in Uganda supports specialization and intensification as market-oriented strategies, which can erode flexibility and diversity at both the farming system and individual farm level. This potentially undermines the ability of smallholder farming systems to adapt to future climate changes. Applying and advancing the FSAC framework demonstrates that a range of actors at different levels are found to make decisions that involve a number of trade-offs between components of adaptive capacity. Policies’ narrow focus on increasing productivity inadequately considers the multi-functionality of smallholder farming systems, and can undermine local-level institutions. Policies can also reduce the diversity and flexibility of smallholder farming, thus undermining adaptive capacity. Supporting a range of adaptation options provides one way to address this. This thesis suggests that there are overlaps between policy-driven and autonomous adaptations, and thus supports calls for critical reflection on the defining characteristics of autonomous adaptation. Adaptation planning also needs to be integrated into national level and sector policy making, and policies should help to support diversity and flexibility as well as productivity and foster inclusive institutions at the local level to reduce risks of fragmentation, conflict and inefficient policy and increase the risk of policy-driven maladaptations. Finally, this thesis supports calls for a critical rethink of the suitability of agricultural modernisation policies to support smallholder farming in the context of climate change and variability.
Supervisor: Stringer, Lindsay ; Challinor, Andrew Sponsor: Economic and Social Research Council ; Natural Environment Research COuncil
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available