Adaptation in agriculture: Lessons for resilience from eastern regions of New Zealand

  • Kenny G
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Abstract

Assessments of adaptation in agriculture have evolved considerably from early, top-down, impact assessments. These early assessments, internationally and in New Zealand, provided a limited view of `smart farmer' adaptation. While impact assessment provides some useful insights, experience with vulnerability and adaptation assessment provides a more appropriate foundation for understanding and characterising practical smart farmer adaptation. Findings are presented from 8 years of engagement with farmers in eastern regions of New Zealand. A comprehensive farm resilience picture has emerged from this work. This picture reflects a strong belief from real-world smart farmers that there is sufficient knowledge and experience to adapt to climate change. Proactive farmers are already reading multiple signals, including changes in climate, and are responding. The farm resilience picture provides a foundation for exploring alternative adaptation options and pathways for agriculture. These are presented and discussed in response to two proposed climate change scenarios, a high carbon world scenario and a rapidly decarbonising world scenario. Knowledge intensive, low input systems are consistent with the resilience picture drawn from farmers. Such systems are also consistent with a rapidly decarbonising world scenario and, it is argued, are likely to become increasingly attractive under a high carbon world scenario. A smart farming approach, focused on resilience, provides the basis for development of a response capacity, with potentially significant co-benefits in terms of adaptation and mitigation to climate change. Wider issues and needs to support the further development of farm resilience, and more widely landscape or regional resilience, are identified and discussed. It is apparent from this work that ongoing engagement with smart farmers, focused on resilience, can contribute significantly to development of a coordinated `bottom up' and `top down' response capacity. Addressing the psychology of change is a fundamental need to ensure wider engagement.

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Authors

  • Gavin Kenny

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