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Doctoral thesis2020Open access

Smallholder farm management and priorities : balancing productivity, livelihood, climate adaptation and ecosystem services

Nyberg, Ylva


Smallholders in sub-Saharan Africa are highly vulnerable to climate change, but also have good potential for improving production. This thesis examined how Kenyan smallholders manage their farming systems to adapt to rainfall variability and improve productivity, while also maintaining sustainable delivery of multiple ecosystem services. The study covered a gradient from Kisumu by Lake Victoria to Trans Nzoia in the Highlands. Awareness and use of adaptation and coping measures were studied through group and individual interviews. Effects of tree and livestock density on ecosystem services and farm priorities were explored on 20 farms. The influence of the Kenya Agricultural Carbon Project was assessed, using uptake of sustainable land management practices, maize yield, food self-sufficiency and savings as indicators. Smallholder farmers were aware of local climate change and measures that can assist in adaptation, but uptake of these measures was limited by lack of money, knowledge and labour. Men had higher education, better access to advisory services and more time for social networks, and used more adaptation measures than, especially, low-educated women. Farmers with access to regular advisory services used greater numbers of more effective measures. Maize yield was positively related to terracing and inclusion of trees (agroforestry). Higher tree density increased the workload, but also the proportion of onfarm income, and trees were important for cultural ecosystem services. Thus smallholders will not adopt more sustainable practices unless they have the means (labour, land, capital) and the knowledge that the benefits will exceed the costs. A holistic and inclusive advisory approach, focusing on low-educated women and promoting synergistic measures, diversified farming systems and means to overcome barriers to adoption of sustainable practices, could help smallholders balance adaptation, productivity and other ecosystem services for a sustainable livelihood.


advisory service; coping; gender; indicators; KACP; Kenya; labour; learning source; limitation; sustainable

Published in

Acta Universitatis Agriculturae Sueciae
2020, number: 2020:42ISBN: 978-91-7760-602-4, eISBN: 978-91-7760-603-1
Publisher: Department of Crop Production Ecology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Other Agricultural Sciences not elsewhere specified
    Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use

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