Agrifood Economics


Smallholder adaptive responses to seasonal weather forecasts. A case study of the 2015/16 El Niño Southern Oscillation in Zambia
FAO Agricultural Development Economics Working Paper 19-07
Maggio, G. Sitko, N.J., & Ignaciuk, A.
Publication date

Does receiving information on potential adverse weather conditions induce adaptive responses by smallholders? Do market institutions ease constraints to adaptation of these practices? This report examines these questions using a unique panel dataset of Zambian smallholder households collected before and after 2015/16 El Niño Southern Oscillation event. The analysis finds that farmers receiving drought-related seasonal forecasts are more likely to integrate drought tolerant crops into their cropping systems and to acquire improved maize seed varieties. These farmers, on average, are found to apply double the quantity of improved maize seeds than farmers residing in the same zones but not receiving weather information. Larger and more competitive private output markets function as enablers of smallholder adaptive responses to seasonal forecast information, as farmers with improved market access are more likely to shift toward drought resilient technologies than farmers with low output market access. Three policy recommendations emerge from the findings. First, while seasonal forecast information can induce adaptive responses by farmers, there is the need of improving access to this information, particularly for households in remote areas or limited asset ownership. Second, targeting voucher-based farmer input support programs based on seasonal forecast information can enable the crowding in of private investments in these regions and increase the adaptive responses of farmers, particularly resource constrained farmers. Finally, this analysis suggests that policies that incentivize private investment in agricultural markets should be considered within the broader framework of smallholder climate adaptation and resilience in Zambia. This includes strategies to improve agricultural trade predictability.