Mountain Farming Systems’ Exposure and Sensitivity to Climate Change and Variability: Agroforestry and Conventional Agriculture Systems Compared in Ecuador’s Indigenous Territory of Kayambi People
R. Cordova, N. Hogarth, M. Kanninen
Sustainability 2019, 11(9), 2623; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11092623
Abstract: Smallholder farming is considered one of the most vulnerable sectors to the impacts of climate change, variability, and extremes, especially in the developing world. This high vulnerability is due to the socioeconomic limitations and high environmental sensitivity which affect the biophysical and socioeconomic components of their farming systems. Therefore, systems’ functionality and farmers’ livelihoods will also be affected, with significant implications for global food security, land-use/land-cover change processes and agrobiodiversity conservation. Thus, less vulnerable and more resilient smallholder farming systems constitute an important requisite for sustainable land management and to safeguard the livelihoods of millions of rural and urban households. This study compares a comprehensive socioeconomic and environmental dataset collected in 2015–2016 based on household interviews of 30 farmers of highland agroforestry systems and 30 farmers of conventional agriculture systems, to determine which system provides better opportunities to reduce exposure and sensitivity. A modified Climate Change Questionnaire Version 2 of the World Overview of Conservation Approaches and Technologies (WOCAT) was applied to collect the data. The interview data are based on the perceptions of Kayambi indigenous farmers about the levels of exposure and sensitivity of their farming systems during the last decade. Descriptive statistics were applied to analyze the data from the 60 farms. Results indicate that both agroforesters and conventional farmers clearly perceived increases in temperature and reductions in precipitation for the last decade, and expected this trend to continue in the next decade. Furthermore, conventional farmers perceived greater exposure to droughts (20%), solar radiation (43%), and pests, weeds and disease outbreaks (40%) than agroforesters. Additionally, results emphasize the better ability of agroforestry systems to reduce exposure and sensitivity to climate change and variability. These findings support the well-known assumptions about the key role played by agroforestry systems for climate change adaptation and mitigation, especially in developing countries.