Authors: Abravi Essenam Kissi, Georges Abbevi Abbey, Grace B. Villamor
Site of publication: MDPI
Type of publication: Article
Date of publication: April 2023
Climate change has adverse effects on rural livelihoods all over the world, especially in West Africa. Climate change is defined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as statistically significant variations in climate that persist for an extended time, typically decades or longer. This phenomenon affects and is expected to have the greatest impact on agriculture, and the livelihoods of people in the developing world, particularly in West Africa due to their high dependency on rain-fed agriculture, and also their large dependence on agricultural practices for their livelihoods.
In Togo, agriculture accounts for approximately 38% of GDP and employs more than 70% of the workforce. The agricultural sector in Togo is particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, with huge consequences on agriculture productivity and income. For several consecutive years now, Togo has been subject to climate risks due to an alteration in the distribution of rainfall with extreme droughts and floods events, and a decrease in the number of rainy days across the country, impacting intensively agriculture livelihoods and the agroecosystems on which farmers rely.
Based on the observed climate trends and the expected impact of climate change on agriculture, building farmers’ resilience through adaptation measures is crucial. However, farmers’ decisions to implement climate change adaptation strategies are directly related to their perceptions of climate change, its impacts, and related risks. To improve policy for addressing the challenges that climate change poses to farmers, it is critical to understand farmers’ perceptions of climate change, its potential impacts, and associated risks.
The first step towards developing an effective risk management system is a proper perception of risk factors. Farmers’ understanding and perceptions of climate risks are important because they can influence their management practices and provide a better guide for adaptation responses. Various studies have shown that farmers’ perceptions are important for understanding climate-related risks in agricultural practices because this body of knowledge is built on individual farmers’ perspectives, belief systems, and interpretations of climate issues based on experience and local knowledge.
In Togo, agriculture accounts for approximately 38% of GDP and employs more than 70% of the workforce
In our study, both the qualitative results from the local stakeholders’ workshop and the quantitative results from the household survey revealed that farmers, as well as local stakeholders, are aware of the change in climate parameters mainly in rainfall and temperature and the occurrence of their related extreme events. They perceived that the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, mainly droughts and floods, have increased during the last two decades.
Similarly, earlier studies carried out in the study area reported that farmers perceived an increasing trend of temperature and changes in rainfall patterns marked by erratic rainfall and an increase in extreme rainfall events in the Savanna region of Togo, causing extreme events such as droughts and floods. A similar study carried out by showed that farmers in Burkina-Faso are aware of changing climatic conditions, including increased temperatures, greater rainfall variability, heavier precipitation events, and delayed onset and premature offset of the rainy season.
Another study conducted by in Ethiopia revealed that smallholder farmers face several climate-related hazards, including highly variable rainfall and severe droughts, which can be devastating to their livelihoods. According to, as the temperature increases and the rainfall pattern changes due to climate change, the likelihood of sudden disasters including floods and droughts will augment and intensify the risk of loss of rural income and livelihood for the most vulnerable populations.
Several climate impacts on agricultural land and production have been identified in the study area. The prominent impacts perceived were a decrease in agricultural income, a decline in crop production and yields, a decrease in soil fertility, a decrease in water availability, and increased soil erosion. These results are consistent with earlier studies on the impacts and risks of climate change on agriculture, which showed that because agriculture is so dependent on weather and climate, changes in these parameters can have a significant impact on agricultural production that affects farmers’ livelihoods.
In addition, several socio-ecological factors were identified as contributing to farmers’ increased vulnerability. Among others, the perceived factors were loss of ecosystem services provided by land, strong dependency on agricultural income, unsustainable farming practices, lack of sufficient farm labor, lack of sufficient agriculture assets, lack of knowledge of sustainable cropland management strategies, lack of access to improved seeds, lack of access to irrigation, lack of access to financial safety nets, and lack of access to climate information.
Along the same lines, the studies carried out by revealed that smallholder farmers are vulnerable to the effects of climate change due to low levels of technology, high dependence on agriculture for their livelihoods, limited access to climate information, and a lack of other essential agricultural assets, resulting in an increased vulnerability and loss of livelihood.
As the temperature increases and the rainfall pattern changes due to climate change, the likelihood of sudden disasters including floods and droughts will augment and intensify the risk of loss of rural income and livelihood for the most vulnerable populations
Furthermore, when measuring farmers’ perceptions of climate risk, the findings show that three major factors play a significant role in categorizing farmers as high, moderate, or low climate risk perceivers. Those factors are perceived socio-ecological sensitivity, lack of adaptive capacity, and exposure to climate-related hazards. This means that farmers with a higher risk perception of losing their livelihood due to climate change had a higher perception of their vulnerability and exposure to hazards.
This is consistent with the findings of, who discovered that farmers in Chiapas, Mexico, with strong perceptions of climate hazards and their vulnerability to those hazards were more likely to appraise climate risk and adapt. The authors of also found that understanding climate-related vulnerabilities and exposure is critical for understanding climate risk perception and improving agricultural practices to increase food production. According to Raghuvanshi and Mohammad, measuring farmers’ perception of risks associated with climate change is of paramount importance and needs to be assessed so that appropriate adaptation measures can be implemented to mitigate productivity losses. This study demonstrated the importance of local knowledge in understanding the drivers of climate change risk in agriculture.