Harnessing agrobiodiversity for climate change adaptation in semi-arid areas of Mali

19:00 Tuesday 28 May




Alcade C. Segnon (Benin) 1,2,3; Robert B Zougmore (Mali) 2; Enoch G. Achigan-Dako (Benin) 3; Benjamin D. Ofori (Ghana) 1; Chris Gordon (Ghana) 1

1 - Institute for Environment and Sanitation Studies, University of Ghana, Ghana; 2 - CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), Mali; 3 - Faculty of Agronomic Sciences, University of Abomey-Calavi, Benin

Exploiting agricultural biodiversity to address climatic risks are suggested and actively discussed as ecosystem-based adaptation approach. Although benefits of agrobiodiversity-based strategies are highlighted, the meaning of these practices for smallholder farmers and their sustainability are poorly documented. This contextual understanding is critical, particularly in hotspots of climate change such as semi-arid areas of West Africa.

This study explored farmers’ adaptation strategies and the place of agrobiodiversity-based adaptation practices in Koutiala, a semi-arid area of Mali. Empirical data were collected through semi-structured interviews with 501 farmers and focus group discussions in 10 villages. The findings indicated that smallholders farmers in semi-arid areas relied on a portfolio of strategies to respond to climatic risks including sowing date management, soil and water conservation practices, inorganic and organic fertilizer use, reduction of farm size or livestock numbers, dry season vegetable farming, income diversification and climate information use.

The number of adaptation strategies ranged from 2 to 15. Agrobiodiversity-based practices were clustered into

  • crop diversity use and management practices,
  • varietal use and management practices,
  • tree diversity-based practices and
  • livestock diversity use practices.

The results also revealed that agrobiodiversity-based practices were usually combined with other strategies such as fertilizer use or sowing date management. In addition, risks that drive adoption of agrobiodiversity-based practices were not always climatic in nature, but also included non-climatic risks.

The study highlights the diversity of adaptation strategies used by farmers in semi-arid regions, and particularly the complementarity between agrobiodiversity-based practices and other strategies. It concludes that the dichotomy agrobiodiversity-based (or Ecosystem-based) vs. other adaptation practices/strategies might be misleading and not tell the full story on the ground. It argues for a holistic approach to take stock on synergies from integrating multiple practices/strategies across scales and view adaptation as socioecological transformation process.