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Climate Factors Play a Limited Role for Past Adaptation Strategies in West Africa

Ole Mertz, Department of Geography and Geology, University of Copenhagen
Cheikh Mbow, Institut des Sciences de l’Environnement, Faculté des Sciences et Techniques, Ecole Supérieure Polytechnique, Université Cheikh Anta Diop de Dakar
Jonas Østergaard Nielsen, Waterworlds Research Centre, Department of Anthropology, University of Copenhagen
Abdou Maiga, Département IRO, University de Montréal
Drissa Diallo, Université de Bamako, Campus de Badalabougou
Anette Reenberg, Department of Geography and Geology, University of Copenhagen
Awa Diouf, Institut des Sciences de l’Environnement, Faculté des Sciences et Techniques, Ecole Supérieure Polytechnique, Université Cheikh Anta Diop de Dakar
Bruno Barbier, International Cooperation Center for Agronomic Research and Development (CIRAD)
Ibrahim Bouzou Moussa, Département de Géographie, Université Abdou Moumouni
Malicki Zorom, Institut International d’Ingénierie de l’Eau et de l’Environnement (2iE)
Ibrahim Ouattara, Département de Géographie, Université de Ouagadougou
Daniel Dabi, Department of Geography and Planning, Faculty of Environmental Sciences, University of Jos

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Abstract

The Sudano-Sahelian zone of West Africa has experienced recurrent droughts since the mid-1970s and today there is considerable concern for how this region will be able to adapt to future climate change. To develop well targeted adaptation strategies, the relative importance of climate factors as drivers of land use and livelihood change need to be better understood. Based on the perceptions of 1249 households in five countries across an annual rainfall gradient of 400-900 mm, we provide an estimate of the relative weight of climate factors as drivers of changes in rural households during the past 20 years. Climate factors, mainly inadequate rainfall, are perceived by 30-50% of households to be a cause of decreasing rainfed crop production, whereas a wide range of other factors explains the remaining 50-70%. Climate factors are much less important for decreasing livestock production and pasture areas. Increases in pasture are also observed and caused by improved tenure in the driest zone. Adaptation strategies to declining crop production include ‘prayer’ and migration in the 400-500 mm zone; reforestation, migration, and government support in the 500-700 mm zone; and soil improvement in the 700-900 mm zone. Declining livestock holdings are countered by improved fodder resources and veterinary services. It is concluded that although rainfed crop production is mainly constrained by climate factors, livestock and pasture are less climate sensitive in all rainfall zones. This needs to be reflected in national adaptation strategies in the region.

Key words

adaptation; climate variability; livestock; rainfed crops; West Africa
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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087