The Impact Of Climate Change On Smallholder And Subsistence Agriculture – The psychosocial impacts of climate change and implications for sustainable development remain unclear. This issue was addressed by focusing on smallholder farmers in the resettlement areas of Chirumanzu District, Zimbabwe. An exploratory descriptive-qualitative research design was adopted. Purposive sampling techniques were used to select 54 farmers who served as primary respondents from four representative districts. Data was collected through semi-structured interviews and analyzed using a grounded theory approach. The code sets and codes were established through inductive approaches by considering farmers’ narratives. Forty psychosocial impacts have been established. They were qualitative, intangible, indirect, and difficult to measure quantitatively. Farmers are tormented by the threat of climate change on agricultural activities, they feel humiliated and embarrassed by the detestable practices they have resorted to due to climate change. Some farmers experienced heightened negative feelings, thoughts and emotions. The psychosocial impacts of climate change have been established to impact the sustainable development of emerging rural communities.
Climate change is not only an environmental problem, but also a psychological (Clayton, 2020) and social one. Likewise, climate change not only affects human physical health, but also mental health (Dodgen et al., 2016; Manning and Clayton, 2018) and social well-being. Although research has been conducted on the impacts of climate change on physical and mental health, as well as on the social aspects associated with them, not much has been done on small-scale farmers in developing countries who consider agriculture as their main source of livelihood. Much of the research illustrating the adversities of climate change on smallholder farmers has been conducted in developed countries. Charlson et al. (2021) conducted a review to assess the body of literature on climate change and mental health and found that, out of a sample of 120 studies conducted between 2001 and 2020, the majority of studies (87) were conducted in high-income countries, including Australia, the largest number of research studies (34), followed by Canada and the United States of America (USA), (17 and 16 respectively). The evaluation also revealed that only 3% of the studies were conducted in low-income countries.
The Impact Of Climate Change On Smallholder And Subsistence Agriculture
Among the studies conducted in Australia is an initial study by Hanigan et al. (2012), who studied the relationship between suicide and drought among male farmers in South Wales, Australia. An increase in the drought index was found to increase the relative risk of suicide by 15% in rural males aged 30 to 49 years. Ellis and Albrecht (2017) also explored the importance of sense of place in understanding the mental health impacts of climate change on farmers in the Western Australian Wheatbelt. One finding was that climate change increased farmers’ concern about weather patterns, ignored the concept of personal identity, and led to place-related distress. Fuentes et al. (2020) examined the impacts of environmental change on well-being in selected Indigenous communities in the boreal forest of eastern Canada. The study showed that perceived impacts were greater for participants with a higher quality of life. In the United States, Howard et al. (2020) sought to understand farmers’ and ranchers’ perceptions of climate change impacts on mental well-being in rural areas along the western parts of the country. It has been observed that there is a moderate correlation between the perception of climate risk and anxiety related to climate impacts.
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Supporting observations made by Charlson et al., 2021 that studies on the impacts of climate change on mental health in developing countries are limited. Atwoli et al. (2022) reviewed evidence of the impacts of climate change on mental health in Africa. The review showed that research studies in Africa are scarce and recommended that national governments take it seriously as an emerging threat to the region. Among the few assessments focusing on the impact of climate change on the mental health of smallholder farmers in developing countries, there is a study by Acharibasam and Anuga (2018) which sought to understand and explain the association between climate change and Farmers’ emotion regulation practices among smallholder farmers. farmers in northern Ghana. The study concluded that the impact of climate change on farmers’ emotional regulation practices could predispose them to mental health problems later in their lives. This imbalance in research on climate change impacts and mental health between developed and developing countries projects a bleak picture because individual-level impacts around the world are significant considerations for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2022) and the science of climate change (Reser et al., 2012).
It is also evident that the link between the psychosocial impacts of climate change and sustainable development is unclear, if not absent. Some studies attempt to determine the impacts of climate change on sustainable development issues (Reyer et al., 2017), especially in emerging rural communities. The limited literature on the psychological impacts of climate change, for example (Grothmann and Patt, 2005; Fritze et al., 2008) constitutes a solid basis on the topic. However, it does not incorporate the social impact dimension which could impact the psychological effects experienced. The social impacts of climate change are defined as the negative effects that decrease people’s well-being resulting in increased poverty, food insecurity and gender inequality with the effect of reducing the quality of life of individuals and communities (Safonov , 2019). Doherty and Clayton (2011) defined the psychological impacts of climate change as the direct and indirect effects of climate change. Direct effects are considered “acute or traumatic effects of extreme weather events” while indirect ones are considered threats to emotional well-being due to worry and uncertainty of future risks. This study adopted some of the elements provided in the definitions above. Therefore, for the purpose of the study, the psychosocial impact of climate change is the influence of the social impact on the mental well-being of smallholder farmers. There is a connection between the social and psychological impact of climate change as the former generates the latter. The term psychosocial is used to illustrate this connection. However, it should be noted that although social and psychological impacts are linked, they have been separated for ease of analysis.
The social and psychological impacts of climate change are rarely analyzed together in the existing literature. For example, Njeru et al. (2022) studied the effect of climate change on mental health among smallholder farmers in Kenya, but did not incorporate social aspects. The limited literature that attempts to integrate the social and psychological impacts of climate change does not show the implications for the sustainable development of emerging rural communities. For example, Truelove et al. (2015) sought to understand the social and psychological factors that influence individual adaptation using a model of risk, coping and social appraisal; however, the study shows no implications for sustainable development.
Climate change is one of the biggest threats to individual small farmers. The climate changes that most impact smallholder agriculture manifest themselves in higher-than-normal temperatures, altered precipitation patterns and intensity, and a greater frequency of extreme events such as droughts and floods (Field and Barros, 2014). This trend has been observed in Zimbabwe (Mushore et al., 2021; Nciizah et al., 2021). Rainy seasons have become unpredictable, irregular and volatile and vary with long dry spells compounded by shorter and drier growing seasons (Chikodzi and Mutowo, 2012). The same authors also noted that droughts and floods are on the rise. Shortening growing seasons, decreasing water resources and loss of agro-biodiversity systems have been cited as part of the evidence for increasing climate change and variability impacts in Zimbabwe (Mapfumo et al., 2016) .
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Despite a growing number of climate impact studies in Zimbabwe, literature on the psychosocial impacts of climate change lags. Senda et al. (2020) modeled the impacts of climate change on the productivity of rangeland and livestock populations in Nkayi District and found that low rainfall reduced herbaceous biomass production while increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations increased the growth of trees and shrubs. It was recommended that small farmers consider maintaining livestock species that can utilize trees and shrubs. Muringai et al. (2022) assessed the impacts of climate change on small-scale fishers and showed that increasing temperatures and decreasing rainfall are believed to have led to reduced fish stocks and catches in the Binga and Sanyati basins. Tui et al. (2021) applied a multi-modeling approach to co-develop climate change impact scenarios under the dryland framing system in Nkayi, where maize and cattle farming systems are dominant. A reduction in maize yield was observed due to high temperatures, while milk production was affected by low crop residue production and reduced pasture productivity which affected livestock fodder consumption. An analysis of the impacts of climate change on traditional agricultural systems in Gwanda, Mangwe and Matobo districts (Ndlovu et al., 2020) established that traditional agricultural systems were being abandoned for other livelihood options due to decreasing annual rainfall and of the destructive impacts of Cyclones Eline and Dineo in 2000 and 2017, respectively, on agricultural infrastructure that supports traditional agriculture, ultimately leading to worsening food insecurity. A spatial model of the effects of climate change on the distribution of Lantana camara in southern Matebeleland (Ncube et al., 2020). The area is expected to have been invaded by the Lantana
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