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Tried and tested: learning from farmers on adaptation to climate change

There exists a wealth of largely overlooked experience that has been accrued over generations by small-scale farmers and pastoralists in poor countries as they cope with climatic extremes and increasing uncertainty – climate-change related or otherwise. IIED has 40 years’ experience of working with these producers; this Gatekeeper paper draws lessons from this wealth of knowledge in order to inform adaptation planning efforts at all levels. The paper underscores how measures to increase climate change resilience must view food, energy, water and waste management systems as interconnected and mutually dependent. This holistic approach must also be applied to economic analysis for adaptation planning. Similarly, it is vital to use traditional knowledge and management skills, which can further support adaptation planning. The aim of this Gatekeeper paper is to avoid energy and effort being expended on re-inventing the wheel; it urges those involved in supporting climate change adaptation to draw much more from the existing strategies and knowledge of the millions of farmers and pastoralists worldwide. Of course, no amount of knowledge based on past experience will help deal with large or extreme changes. But in many cases the existing knowledge and experience of how to cope with current and past climate variability provide a solid grounding for how best to adapt to current and future climate change.

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