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The role of agroforestry in building livelihood resilience to floods and drought in semiarid Kenya

Amy Quandt, Jornada Experimental Range, New Mexico State University; Sustainability Innovations Lab at Colorado, University of Colorado Boulder
Henry Neufeldt, World Agroforestry Centre, Climate Change Unit
J. Terrence McCabe, Institute of Behavioral Science, Department of Anthropology, University of Colorado Boulder


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Climate change may create serious problems for farmers by increasing precipitation variability and drought and flood events. Understanding how to build livelihood resilience to these effects is a pressing need. Agroforestry is one potential solution. Although many people intuitively link agroforestry with livelihood resilience to floods and drought, little comprehensive empirical evidence exists. Here, we strive to answer the call for more empirical evidence by drawing on field work in Isiolo County, Kenya to ask the research question: How does agroforestry help smallholder farmers build livelihood resilience to floods and drought? We used a mixed-methods approach that included 20 qualitative case study households and 338 quantitative household surveys. Our major findings are: (1) practicing agroforestry can influence perceptions of floods and drought, (2) specific environmental and livelihood benefits of agroforestry contribute to livelihood resilience, and (3) agroforestry directly and indirectly builds livelihood resilience to floods and drought. Identifying potential climate change adaptation strategies is crucial for smallholder farmers. Our research indicates that agroforestry is one promising option.

Key words

agroforestry; climate change; drought; flood; Kenya; resilience; sustainable livelihoods

Copyright © 2017 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087