Climate Trends and Farmers' Perceptions of Climate Change in Zambia

Environ Manage. 2017 Feb;59(2):291-306. doi: 10.1007/s00267-016-0780-5. Epub 2016 Oct 24.


A number of studies use meteorological records to analyze climate trends and assess the impact of climate change on agricultural yields. While these provide quantitative evidence on climate trends and the likely effects thereof, they incorporate limited qualitative analysis of farmers' perceptions of climate change and/or variability. The present study builds on the quantitative methods used elsewhere to analyze climate trends, and in addition compares local narratives of climate change with evidence found in meteorological records in Zambia. Farmers offer remarkably consistent reports of a rainy season that is growing shorter and less predictable. For some climate parameters-notably, rising average temperature-there is a clear overlap between farmers' observations and patterns found in the meteorological records. However, the data do not support the perception that the rainy season used to begin earlier, and we generally do not detect a reported increase in the frequency of dry spells. Several explanations for these discrepancies are offered. Further, we provide policy recommendations to help farmers adapt to climate change/variability, as well as suggestions to shape future climate change policies, programs, and research in developing countries.

Keywords: Climate change; Coping and adaptation strategies; Local knowledge; Small-scale agriculture; Zambia.

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture / methods*
  • Attitude
  • Climate
  • Climate Change*
  • Developing Countries
  • Farmers* / psychology
  • Perception
  • Rain
  • Seasons
  • Temperature
  • Zambia