Agricultural resilience building at the farm level in Malawi : the relevance of indigenous knowledge

University essay from Lunds universitet/Kulturgeografi och ekonomisk geografi; Lunds universitet/Institutionen för kulturgeografi och ekonomisk geografi

Abstract: Anthropogenic climate change poses new challenges to smallholder farmers in the Global South. At the farm level, science-based adaptation measures, as well as farmers’ autonomous responses based on indigenous knowledge, are simultaneously in use. This thesis investigates their linkages by assessing the role of indigenous knowledge for the development of modern climate change adaptation strategies in the form of a case study on the agricultural sector of Malawi. Existing literature in the field is therefore interpreted through the lenses of the capability approach and appropriate technology development. By means of qualitative content analysis, the findings are evaluated with regard to the dichotomy between indigenous and modern scientific perspectives on agricultural resilience building. The results of the study suggest that indigenous knowledge holds the potential to complement modern scientific knowledge on climate change adaptation in terms of providing locally accepted and site-specific inputs and enabling the self-determination and empowerment of farming communities in Malawi. While indigenous knowledge is identified as a resource that augments Malawian farmers’ capabilities to assess climate change and climate variability, to perform weather forecasting, and to modify agricultural practices, climate change and poverty undermine the foundations of their capabilities. With climate change threatening the utility of indigenous knowledge, the development of appropriate technologies through indigenous and scientific knowledge co-production, can potentially help Malawian farmers to face the rapid pace of climate change.

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