Journal Article

Diversification and intensification of agricultural adaptation from global to local scales

Smallholder farming systems are vulnerable to a number of challenges, including continued population growth, urbanization, income disparities, land degradation, decreasing farm size and productivity, all of which are compounded by uncertainty of climatic patterns. Understanding determinants of smallholder farming practices is critical for designing and implementing successful interventions, including climate change adaptation programs. We examine two dimensions wherein smallholder farmers may adapt agricultural practices; through intensification (i.e., adopt more practices) or diversification (i.e. adopt different practices). We use data on 5314 randomly sampled households located in 38 sites in 15 countries across four regions (East and West Africa, South Asia, and Central America). We estimate empirical models designed to assess determinants of both intensification and diversification of adaptation activities at global scales. Aspects of adaptive capacity that are found to increase intensification of adaptation globally include variables associated with access to information and human capital, financial considerations, assets, household infrastructure and experience. In contrast, there are few global drivers of adaptive diversification, with a notable exception being access to weather information, which also increases adaptive intensification. Investigating reasons for adaptation indicate that conditions present in underdeveloped markets provide the primary impetus for adaptation, even in the context of climate change. We also compare determinants across spatial scales, which reveals a variety of local avenues through which policy interventions can relax economic constraints and boost agricultural adaptation for both intensification and diversification. For example, access to weather information does not affect intensification adaptation in Africa, but is significant at several sites in Bangladesh and India. Moreover, this information leads to diversification of adaptive activities on some sites in South Asia and Central America, but increases specialization in West and East Africa.