Smallholder farmers’ understanding of, and attitudes to, climate change, variability and climate smart farming
: A case study of South West Nigeria

  • Adeola Alo

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Sub-Saharan African countries have been projected to be under severe climate threat in the form of a rise in climate variability. Such variability will impact on agriculture in particular and hence challenge rural livelihoods and potentially rural and urban food security. Nigeria makes an ideal case study country in which to assess the impacts of climate variability, the understanding and perceptions of smallholders to climate changes and their approaches to climate smart good agricultural practices. It also provides an opportunity to evaluate the appropriateness of assistance smallholders are receiving through extension.

This study aimed to intensify and to further improve the empirical understanding of the socioeconomic, biophysical and institutional factors that contribute to climate change variability and vulnerability among farming households and communities in Nigeria. The study also aimed to promote a better understanding of climate-smart Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) to achieve environmentally, economically and socially sustainable agricultural practices in order to contribute to improved livelihoods and incomes in the face of climate change challenges. A secondary aim was to evaluate the potential of participatory action planning as a way of sharing knowledge and experiences between smallholders and those who work with them (e.g. extension services) against a constantly changing environment.

These research aims were applied to arable smallholder farming systems in South-West Nigeria as a case in point. By integrating participatory methods, statistical analyses and household surveys, this research adopted a multistage approach to examine and understand smallholder farming systems, livelihoods and perceptions of a changing climate. As part of the study, the Vulnerability Framework to understand smallholders’ vulnerability and adaptive capacity was used. This focused on the impacts of climate change as perceived by smallholder farmers and the adaptive approaches ranging from individual households to government programmes and policies executed to reduce smallholders’ vulnerability to climate challenges and to increase smallholders’ resilience to predicted future climate change.

The study showed that smallholder farmers are very aware of their local environment and how the environmental changes are affecting their livelihoods. Farmers stated that the perceived changes in climatic variables like temperature and rainfall have been occurring in the area over a period of three decades. This was confirmed by the evidence from the temperature and rainfall data obtained from the national weather site and local weather stations. The study further showed that despite the change in climatic conditions, smallholders have employed a few on-farm and off-farm adaptation strategies such as changing the planting calendar, livelihood diversification and crop diversification among others to reduce their vulnerability to the changing conditions. However, the study shows that cultural barriers, financial constraints, limited access to improved crop varieties, lack of financial support from the government, poor access to information on climate smart adaptation strategies and the lack of confidence in, and insufficient access to the advice given by extension workers are among the challenges linked to non-adoption of some good agricultural practices.

Another key finding is that the existing extension and research extension model is not working. There is a need to recognise that for extension to be effective, it needs to embrace indigenous knowledge and integrate this with physical science. With limited resources for extension, this thesis reinforces calls for the provision of institutional support like access to adequate and regular extension services and an increase in the number of extension workers; however, the study also shows the need for a reinforcement in updating and the training of extension workers not only in technical knowledge on current innovations in climate smart farming in order to disseminate the right information to boost farmers’ confidence in the advice given but also in social interaction behaviour with participatory processes and strong feedbacks.

One way this could be done is by extension officers with the support of research working on participatory training and strategies to review it and learn from it collectively followed by feedback to government to inform policy. Finally, further research should include how smallholder farmers’ can be encouraged to adopt good agricultural practices through further participatory processes including participatory action planning for cropping systems and seasons.
Date of AwardFeb 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Coventry University
SupervisorRichard N Baines (Supervisor) & John S. Conway (Supervisor)

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