Resilience assessments are increasingly used to inform management decisions and development interventions across sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). In light of current and future climate change and variability, there is growing interest in applying such tools and frameworks to assess and strengthen the climate resilience of smallholder farming systems. However, these assessments are often undertaken without explicit consideration of the resilience thinking in which they are grounded. This makes it difficult to understand how the conceptual aspects of resilience are translating into resilience assessment practice. This paper provides an important first step in tackling this gap, by identifying and using key characteristics of resilience thinking to evaluate existing resilience assessment tools and frameworks and drawing insights for assessing the climate resilience of smallholder farming systems. We find that power, politics, and agency, identified as important in the resilience literature, are not fully incorporated within current tools and frameworks. This leads to inadequate consideration of spatial and temporal trade-offs. We propose six recommendations for assessing the climate resilience of smallholder farming systems in SSA in order to enhance the linkages between resilience theory and practice. These are: (1) better integrate vulnerability and resilience; (2) recognize that resilience does not equal development or poverty reduction; (3) recognize the benefits and limitations of adopting flexible, participatory approaches; (4) integrate issues of power into assessment tools; (5) target specific systems; and (6) encourage knowledge sharing, empirical studies, and critical evaluation. Our findings contribute to improved understanding of applications of resilience thinking to enhance natural resource management.
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