Blog Post

Packaging Climate-Smart Agricultural Practices to Increase Farmer Adoption: Evidence from Nigeria

Extreme weather events and the long-term impacts of climate change pose a major risk for Africa south of the Sahara, threatening agricultural production and economic growth and hindering efforts to reduce poverty and food insecurity. Climate-smart agricultural practices (CSAPs) can help farmers better adapt to and mitigate these risks; however, the adoption of such practices in the region remains low.

A recent paper in Agriculture and Food Security examines farmers’ decisions to adopt climate-smart practices, particularly drought-tolerant maize varieties, in Nigeria and concludes that policies to promote the use of climate-smart practices need to take into consideration farmers’ existing CSAP use and whether they are willing or able to adopt multiple practices simultaneously.  

The study draws on data taken from 1,370 rural maize-farming households in Nigeria and assesses whether the adoption of drought-tolerant maize accompanies or replaces the use of other CSAPs, how likely farmers are to adopt multiple practices at the same time, and how intensely each practice was adopted. In addition to drought-tolerant maize, the CSAPs examined included the use of inorganic fertilizers, crop residues, and manure, intercropping, and row-planting. The data also included:

  • households’ socioeconomic status (including household size, gender and age of household head, and years of education and farming experience),
  • attributes of their planted plots and household assets,
  • membership in agricultural cooperatives,
  • access to extension services and loans
  • awareness of and training on improved maize production practices, and
  • level of risk acceptance or aversion

Among surveyed households, only 23 percent adopted drought-tolerant maize varieties, while 92 percent used inorganic fertilizers and 84 percent adopted row-planting. Use of manure, crop residues, and intercropping stood at 37, 48, and 53 percent, respectively.

The results show that farmers are unlikely to adopt drought-tolerant maize varieties on their own or in combination with one other CSAP. However, when combined with two other practices—for example, use of inorganic fertilizers and row-planting—that likelihood increased (to 73 percent in the case of the two aforementioned practices).

Farmers are also more likely to combine low-cost practices, such as use of manure, with other CSAPs. In addition, higher household wealth and increased access to loans led to higher levels of joint CSAP adoption and adoption intensity. These findings all support the hypothesis that financial constraints play a leading role in driving farmers’ adoption decisions: the adoption of a higher cost CSAP may mean reductions in the use of other practices, particularly for poorer farmers, whereas lower cost practices may be added to rather than substituted away from.

Adoption decisions are also impacted when particular practices have similar effects. For example, both intercropping and use of crop residues help to improve soil fertility and protect against erosion. Because their impacts are the same, farmers are more likely to substitute one for the other than they are to use both practices.

Households headed by a female, younger farmers, and those with more years of experience in farming were all more likely to adopt CSAPs, particularly lower-cost practices such as intercropping, use of manure, and use of crop residue. Higher access to technologies, such as improved seed varieties, and training in the use of CSAPs also increased adoption.

Membership in agricultural cooperatives increased adoption of some practices, such as intercropping, but reduced others, such as use of crop residue; this suggests that by promoting certain practices and not promoting others, cooperatives may impact which practices their members adopt.

Overall, the study finds that encouraging the adoption of one climate-smart agricultural practice in isolation may not be an effective policy. Understanding which practices farmers already use and how those existing practices might impact adoption of additional CSAPs—whether due to affordability or similarity in agricultural outcome—will help researchers and policymakers design and promote more targeted CSAP packages. In addition, policies to increase farmers’ access to and ability to afford CSAPs, through agricultural cooperatives and increased access to loans, will also lower barriers to entry and likely increase adoption of higher cost CSAPS like drought-resistant maize.


Sara Gustafson is a freelance communications consultant.