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Lessons from semi-arid regions on how to adapt to climate change

Rising temperatures and more extreme, unpredictable climate events are making sustainable livelihoods tough for many people living in semi-arid regions of the world. To adapt, local communities, and especially farmers, use different strategies and responses.

Research in India and Africa shows that achieving sustained and equitable adaptation requires a number of things. It is critical to include a range of stakeholders to think about the problem together. It’s also important to have access to usable climate information that is considered alongside socioeconomic and governance issues. Finally, we must look at both the past and imagine possible different futures that reduce inequality and climate impacts.

How farmers are adapting

In northern Ghana farmers are increasingly suffering from delays in the onset of the annual rains. In an attempt to adapt, they are experimenting with different types of crop and water-storage systems.

In the Moyar Bhavani basin in India’s southernmost state of Tamil Nadu, unpredictable weather patterns mean that traditional rain calendars, used to decide sowing and harvesting times, are no longer accurate. And as water scarcity becomes a growing problem, farmers are turning to irrigation crops. These require expensive inputs and can push marginalised groups further into poverty and debt.

Water and pasture shortages in Kenya’s semi-arid regions, exacerbated by droughts, have driven pastoralist women into new types of livelihoods. These include petty trade in a number of products like milk, vegetables and beans, as well as small-scale agriculture. Men, on the other hand, pushed by conflicts with other groups over the use of land, often end up pursuing semi-legal activities such as the drugs or arms trades, according to our unpublished research.

Adapting to climate change: Lessons learnt read further WeAdapt

  • Ziervogel​, G., Kloppers, K. and Scodanibbio, L. (2016) Lessons from semi-arid regions on how to adapt to climate change. The Conversation.