Farmer perceptions of conflict related to water in Zambia

Richard A. Marcantonio, Shahzeen Z. Attari, Tom P. Evans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


The relationship between climate change, water scarcity, and conflict is still debated. Much of the existing work relating resource scarcity to conflict has involved regional-scale analysis linking instances of violent outbreaks to environmental conditions. But how do individual farmers in Africa define conflict? Do they perceive that conflict will change as a function of water scarcity, and, if so, how? Here, we address these questions by surveying farmers in southern Zambia in 2015, where we asked respondents to define conflict, assessed their perceptions of past and future conflict, as well as perceptions of rainfall and water availability. We find that the majority of our respondents (75%) think of conflict as misunderstandings or disagreements between people and that 91% of our sample has experienced past conflict, 70% expect to experience future conflict, and 58% expect to experience future physical violent conflict. When asked about the sources of conflict, respondents mainly mention land grabbing, crop damage by animals, and politics rather than water related issues. However, we find a significant relationship between perceptions of future rainfall decreasing and future physical violent conflict. These results imply that even though respondents do not think water scarcity is a direct source of conflict, the perception of decreased rain in the future is significantly related to the perception that future conflict and future physical violent conflict will occur.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number313
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 26 2018


  • Household surveys
  • Rainfall
  • Smallholder farmers
  • Violence
  • Vulnerability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science (miscellaneous)
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Building and Construction
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Hardware and Architecture
  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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