Assessing multi-level drivers of adaptation to climate variability and water insecurity in smallholder irrigation systems

Paul McCord, Kurt Waldman, Elizabeth Baldwin, Jampel Dell'Angelo, Tom Evans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Smallholder agriculturalists employ a range of strategies to adapt to climate variability. These adaptive strategies include decisions to plant different seed varieties, changes to the array of cultivated crops, and shifts in planting dates. Smallholder access to irrigation water is crucial to the adoption of such strategies, and uncertainty of water availability may prove to be a stimulating force in a smallholder's decision to adjust their on-farm practices. Within smallholder irrigation systems, attributes at multiple levels influence water availability and collective action, and in the process play a role in adaptation: community-level governance institutions may influence trust in others and the ability to overcome appropriation and provisioning dilemmas, and, at the household-level, the availability of irrigation water and socioeconomic and demographic factors may influence farmer willingness to take on the risk of altering their on-farm practices. In this study we investigate smallholder adaptation in Kenya from multiple levels. Specifically, we identify the role of household- and community-level characteristics in shaping smallholder experimentation with different seed varieties. Standard ordinary least squares and logistic regressions are constructed to assess the influence of these interactions on smallholder adaptation. We further discuss the ability of smallholders to respond to poor water provisioning. Among the study's findings is evidence that smallholders are more willing to employ adaptive measures if they have a limited capacity to irrigate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)296-308
Number of pages13
JournalWorld Development
StatePublished - Aug 2018


  • Climate change adaptation
  • Collective action
  • Kenya
  • Seed choice
  • Smallholder agriculture
  • Water governance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Economics and Econometrics


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