Understanding Farmers’ Indicators in Climate-Smart Agriculture Prioritization

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In order to increase the uptake of climate-smart agricultural innovations, it is important to move beyond adoption claims and understand the contexts in which farmers operate. Farmers use different indicators to decide whether or not to implement, what to implement, and where to implement specific innovations. Understanding and using such indicators to prioritize agricultural innovations can be helpful in scaling out adoption.

The purpose of this study was to understand the indicators that farmers use to prioritize agricultural innovations, in general, and climate-smart agriculture (CSA), in particular. It specifically addresses the following objectives:

1. Assess the gap between awareness and use of agricultural practices.

2. Develop a list of agricultural practices that farmers prioritize across different agro-ecological zones (AEZ) designated and described by farmers themselves.

3. Identify the indicators that farmers use to rank/prioritize the different practices in the respective AEZ.

4. Compare the indicators that farmers use to prioritize CSA with indicators used by experts.

5. Identify existing demonstration plots.

6.Develop a prioritized list of climate-smart agricultural practices that farmers would like to implement in demonstration plots

7.Establish suitable geographic locations of CSA demonstration plots.


Participatory workshops, in the form of focus group discussions, were conducted in four subcounties (Alero, Anaka, Koch-Goma, and Purongo) of Nwoya District in Northern Uganda. Separate workshops were held with farmers and experts to explore differences between stakeholders and across the district. Characterization of the AEZ, prioritization of practices, identification of indicators for prioritizing CSA, and selection of practices for demonstration as well as sites for the demonstration plots were gender disaggregated.

Results show that, across the district, farmers perceive the soil to be fertile. The majority of farmers practice burning. Farmers reported that burning saves labor for clearing land before ploughing and that, for groundnuts, the yield is higher in burned fields.

Farmers, however, also stated that when burning is used, in the long term, it has negative effects on soil health and fertility. Results further show that awareness differs by practice. Although farmers are generally aware of crop management practices, such as improved varieties, early planting, intercropping, and crop rotation, awareness on land and water management practices is low. A noticeable gap was also observed between the proportions of farmers who are aware of CSA practices versus those who actually implement the practices. Several factors were attributed to this, including labor and financial constraints as well as lack of knowledge and skills.

Among important indicators that farmers reported to use in prioritizing agricultural practices are yield, income, availability of labor, cost of chemicals, availability of equipment, human health, soil fertility, time saving, access to markets, price of products, and knowledge. Generally, there were a lot of similarities in the ranking of the indicators in terms of importance.

There were, however, a few noticeable differences across the AEZ and gender. Weed control, for example, was ranked as a very important indicator by the men’s group in the forested zone of Koch-Goma, while their female counterparts ranked this indicator as least important. In Anaka, men ranked soil fertility as not important (2), while women said that soil fertility was a very important (5) indicator. Similarly, men said that capital was an important (4) indicator, while women said that it was least important (1). In Alero, men ranked availability of land as a very important indicator in the forested zone, while women reported that land availability was least important. Such indicators might be important in quantifying the trade-offs and synergies associated with CSA. Taking such trade-offs and synergies into consideration, when designing strategies to promote the uptake of CSA, is necessary for successful out-scaling.

There were similarities as well as differences in the ranking of practices across the district, AEZ, and gender. The most prioritized practices in Koch-Goma by men in the grassland zone were row planting, improved varieties, timely planting,broadcasting, mulching, and intercropping, respectively, in their order of ranking. Women, however, prioritized timely planting, crop rotation, seed selection, intercropping, and row planting, respectively. In the forested zone, whereas men prioritized deworming of livestock, improved breeds, and paddocking; women ranked seed selection, timely harvesting, correct spacing, and improved varieties as the most important.

In the grassland zone in Alero, men ranked selection of varieties according to AEZ, timely planting, timely weeding, timely harvesting, crop rotation, and agroforestry as the most relevant. Women, on the other hand, ranked selection of seeds, timely planting, herbicide application, zero grazing, and irrigation higher.

In the forested zone, men ranked early land preparation, seed selection, early planting, timely weeding, and crop rotation as the most important in the respective order. Their women counterparts ranked seed selection, timely planting, fallowing, pesticide application, and fertilizer application, respectively, in order.

In Anaka, men and women in the grassland zone ranked the practices in different order. In particular, men ranked silvopastoral systems, seed selection, timely planting, improved varieties, and broadcasting in that order, whereas women ranked improved varieties, timely planting, stop burning, crop rotation, and intercropping in that order. In the forested zone, men ranked timely planting, correct spacing, conservation of wetlands, improved varieties, intercropping, and agroforestry in that order; whereas women ranked agroforestry, seed selection, timely planting, improved breeds, and crop rotation in the respective order.

Men in Purongo’s grassland zone ranked timely weeding, early land preparation, conservation of wetlands, pesticide application, spraying for external parasites, and tethering, in that order; whereas the women ranked timely planting, fallowing, seed selection, crop rotation, improved varieties, and intercropping, in the respective order. Men in the forested zone ranked timely weeding, fallowing, crop rotation, intercropping, contour ploughing, minimum tillage, pesticide application, seed selection, and improved varieties, in that order. The women ranked early land preparation, intercropping, burning, crop rotation, mulching, tethering, residue retention, fallowing, and farmyard manure, in the respective order.

Together, these results contribute to the existing evidence collected by a climate-smart agriculture rapid appraisal (Mwongera et al. 2014) and land health surveys at the study site (Winowiecki et al. 2015) and will be used to establish gender-specific demonstration plots across Nwoya District.