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Sustainability 2012, 4(12), 3302-3325; doi:10.3390/su4123302

Local Perceptions and Responses to Climate Change and Variability: The Case of Laikipia District, Kenya

1,2,* , 2
Received: 18 September 2012 / Revised: 21 November 2012 / Accepted: 22 November 2012 / Published: 5 December 2012
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Coping with Climate Change in Developing Countries)
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Agricultural policies in Kenya aim to improve farmers’ livelihoods. With projected climate change, these policies are short of mechanisms that promote farmers’ adaptation. As a result, smallholders are confronted with a variety of challenges including climate change, which hinders their agricultural production. Local knowledge can be instrumental in assisting smallholders to cope with climate change and variability. In this paper, we present empirical evidence that demonstrates local knowledge, perceptions and adaptations to climate change and variability amongst smallholders of Laikipia district of Kenya. A Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI) calculated for one station is compared with smallholders’ perceptions. Data was collected using qualitative and quantitative methods in Umande and Muhonia sub-locations. Qualitative data included 46 transcripts from focus group discussions and key informant interviews. Quantitative data is derived from 206 interviewees. We analyzed qualitative and quantitative data using Atlas-ti and SPSS respectively. According to smallholders’ perceptions, climatic variability is increasingly changing. Local perceptions include decreasing rainfalls, increasing temperatures, increasing frosts and increasing hunger. The PDSI shows a trend towards severe droughts in the last four decades, which is in accordance with farmers’ perceptions. Smallholders use a combination of coping and adaptation strategies to respond to variability, including, among others, diversification of crop varieties, migration and sale of livestock. Significant relationships exist between drought perceptions and some adaptations such as migration and sale of livestock. Farmers have an in-depth knowledge of climatic variability, which they use to inform their coping and adaptation strategies. Knowledge of climatic perceptions and adaptations are vital entry points for decision makers and policy makers to learn how and where to enhance the adaptive capacity of smallholders in rainy and drought periods.
Keywords: climate change; climate variability; perceptions; smallholders; knowledge; adaptation; policy climate change; climate variability; perceptions; smallholders; knowledge; adaptation; policy
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Ogalleh, S.A.; Vogl, C.R.; Eitzinger, J.; Hauser, M. Local Perceptions and Responses to Climate Change and Variability: The Case of Laikipia District, Kenya. Sustainability 2012, 4, 3302-3325.

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