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Adaptation behaviour to droughts and climate change in Kenya and Ethiopia (2015-present)

Food production in Kenya depends heavily on smallholder rain-fed agriculture; but farm households are challenged to match the erratic rainfall with crop water requirements.

Increasing climate variability and changing socio-economic conditions are exacerbating the frequency and intensity of droughts and aggravate local food insecurity. Integrated water resources management and risk-informed disaster risk reduction strategies are key to ensure sustainable development in this country.

In a past project, ‘A sustainable approach to livelihood improvement’ (ASALI), the VU together aimed to contribute through research and education to the development of sustainable and innovative methods for local communities in Kenya. Through the partnerships with Kenyan universities and other stakeholders created during this ASALI project, new research ideas were developed.

One of these new research ideas focusses is the study and modelling of small-scale farmers’ adaptive behaviour in the face of droughts, aiming to tackle the challenges of climate change adaptation and drought risk reduction for smallholder farmers in Kenya. Past joint research of IVM and SEKU related to drought adaptation measures such as sand dams as well as IVM experience of modelling flood risk behaviour, lead to the aim to investigate and simulate the effect of adaptation decisions on the evolution of drought risk over time; exploring the case of semi-arid areas in Kenya.

The current collaboration between SEKU and IVM consists of:

  • A shared meteo tower providing first-hand weather data and enabling Kenyan students to familiarize with the infrastructure
  • Recurring workshops to exchange knowledge regarding water management and drought risk assessment
  • Support to student master thesis research for Dutch students in Kenya
  • Creating an agent-based drought risk model for smallholder farmers which includes their individual adaptation decisions over time

This study was conducted in collaboration with VU CIS, South Eastern Kenyan University (SEKU), SASOL Foundation (Kenya).

Contact information: Marthe Wens.

Mission reports of past surveys

Wens, M., Johnson, J.M., Zagaria, C. & Veldkamp, T.I.E. (2019). Integrating human behavior dynamics into drought risk assessment: A sociohydrologic, agent-based approach. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews. Water, 6(4), e1345.

Photo: © Ralph Lasage