Cotton farmers’ vulnerability to climate change in Gokwe District (Zimbabwe): impact and influencing factors
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This study analyzes the vulnerability of cotton farmers to climate change in a cotton growing district in Zimbabwe. The vulnerability indicators studied include cotton output and farmers’ livelihoods from cotton farming. In order to examine climate variability and change, a time series analysis of two variables: temperature and rainfall was done for a period of 30 years, resulting in graphs of any climate anomalies. Correlation tests between the independent variable (the climate) and the dependent variable (cotton output) were assessed in order to examine the nature and the magnitude of the relationship between the two. The opinions of 100 randomly sampled farmers were analysed in an attempt to verify the climate scenarios and cotton production trends, as well as to understand their adaptation to climate change. Negative rainfall deviations from the long-term mean and positive temperature deviations dominated the climate trend scenarios’ results. Cotton production levels declined as precipitation decreased and temperatures increased across the district. The survey revealed that a significant number of farmers believed that temperatures were increasing and precipitation was declining. Farmers’ perceptions on whether the climate was changing were greatly influenced by incidences of drought and changes in the seasonal timing of rainfall, and in few cases unusual floods. The majority believed the frequency of droughts was increasing. While farmers were prepared to adapt to changes in climate, their options were very limited. The results show that farmers are highly vulnerable to climate change and that there is a need to invest in climate adaptation strategies, including policies on irrigation and early warning systems to help farmers to cope better and to reduce their vulnerability to climate change.