Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS: https://ethos.bl.uk/OrderDetails.do?uin=uk.bl.ethos.789202
Title: Overcoming dry spells through low material cost adaptations amongst smallholder farmers : the application of old and new technologies
Author: Smedley, David Alan
ISNI:       0000 0004 8500 1167
Awarding Body: King's College London
Current Institution: King's College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2019
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Abstract:
Smallholder farms in the Volta basin, and in Sub-Saharan Africa more generally, are characterised by rained farming systems - which dominate degraded rural landscapes, climate variability and farmers existing in poverty. Dry spells are a particular climatic phenomenon severely affecting yields which are already well below potential, while social structures disempower smallholders and perpetuate poverty. Water scarcity is the main factor limiting agricultural productivity, driven by rainfall variability and high non-productive losses rather than by the total amount of precipitation received during the growing season. Low-cost yet scalable interventions are required that improve green water availability and the ability of farmers to react to variable climate based on locally specific and usable meteorological information. Such interventions could help facilitate the transformation of the smallholder sector and a departure from the status quo. To facilitate this, two low-cost technologies, one introduced and one re-introduced, are investigated which improve crop water availability and enhance the decision-making capacity of farmers as they respond to variable climate. This interdisciplinary PhD investigates the appropriateness of employing zai, a water harvesting technique developed in the Sahelian zone of West Africa, in the middle Volta region where dry spells regularly cause crop failure. The technique is trialled in the field to assess its effect on soil moisture and to provide improved yield data within an experimental setting. This data is then used to model the hydrological ecosystem service effects of the technique's application at scale. The field trials also tested the robustness of low-cost weather stations. An investigation into expanding the climate observation and monitoring network, by deploying hardware with farmers as custodians, is conducted within a co-productive framework. The thesis first concludes that zai function effectively in the higher rainfall conditions of the middle Volta and can produce above average yields even when exposed to dry spells. However, the technique has an optimal configuration with small changes in design substantially affecting yields. Second, the thesis demonstrates that the observational network could be greatly expanded by collaborating with farmers to co-produce data by deploying low-cost weather stations. Applying a co-production framework revealed three themes of empowerment that could result from formal collaborations with researchers which make contributions towards addressing the power inequalities that maintain cycles of poverty. Finally, the thesis finds that zai uptake at scale is likely to produce positive hydrological ecosystem service benefits for downstream water users, most notably those dependant on small dams which are a ubiquitous feature of the middle Volta. The thesis concludes with a proposal to use both these low-cost technologies to aid the agricultural transformation that the rainfed smallholder sector requires.
Supervisor: Mulligan, Mark ; Adams, Helen Joyce Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID: uk.bl.ethos.789202  DOI: Not available
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