Does climate opportunity facilitate smallholder farmers’ adaptive capacity in the Sahel?

Palgrave Communications. 2019;5(1):1-11 DOI 10.1057/s41599-019-0288-8


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Journal Title: Palgrave Communications

ISSN: 2055-1045 (Online)

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan

LCC Subject Category: Social Sciences

Country of publisher: United Kingdom

Language of fulltext: English

Full-text formats available: PDF, HTML



Richard Lalou (MERIT, Université de Paris, IRD)
Benjamin Sultan (ESPACE-DEV, Univ Montpellier, IRD, Univ Guyane, Univ Réunion, Univ Antilles, Univ Avignon)
Bertrand Muller (UMR AGAP, CIRAD/INRA/SupAgro)
Alphousseyni Ndonky (LPED, Aix-Marseille Université, IRD, Campus International UCAD/IRD)


Blind peer review

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Instructions for authors

Time From Submission to Publication: 19 weeks


Abstract | Full Text

Abstract In Africa, adaptation will be crucial to offset expected negative climate change impacts on food security and agriculture development. In this study, we combine meteorological data from 18 local stations, field surveys on agricultural practices and agronomic information on the growth of millet to demonstrate the crop suitability to the present climate and the ability of Senegalese farmers to adapt their practices to climate variability, and to disseminate them. From data collected in both 665 villages and 1061 farmers, our study provides quantitative evidence of the responsive adaptation of farmers in the Sahel where the recent resumption of rainfall has provided new agricultural opportunities. Statistical models and cropping simulations show that these farmers innovate by reintroducing and disseminating a long cycle millet cultivar—more suitable for wet environments. We note that although this adaptation is a clear response to recent changes in quantity and distribution of rainfall, its adoption remains limited (50% of the villages visited and 25% of the surveyed agricultural producers have cultivated the new millet variety) and varies strongly within the same climatic context and by characteristics of farmers (willing and capacity), indicating different agricultural strategies (diversification, market exchanges). If land access and development of cash crops are hindrances to the adoption of sanio, poverty is clearly not a barrier and adaptation is not a lever for wealth creation. Such adaptative capacities, together with government incentives for farmers to sustainably adapt to climate change, can be important in reducing climate risks in the coming years.