Regional Sustainability ›› 2023, Vol. 4 ›› Issue (2): 129-138.doi: 10.1016/j.regsus.2023.04.001

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Synergies and trade-offs of climate-smart agriculture (CSA) practices selected by smallholder farmers in Geshy watershed, Southwest Ethiopia

Girma TILAHUNa,b,*(), Amare BANTIDERb, Desalegn YAYEHb   

  1. aBonga University, Department of Natural Resources and Management, Bonga, 329, Ethiopia
    bAddis Ababa University, Center for Food Security Studies, Addis Ababa, 1176, Ethiopia
  • Received:2022-11-05 Revised:2023-03-07 Accepted:2023-04-08 Online:2023-06-30 Published:2023-06-16
  • Contact: *E-mail address: (G. TILAHUN).


Studies on mainstreaming climate-smart agriculture (CSA) practices can increase smallholder farmers’ capacity and awareness to improve food security and establish sustainable livelihoods through resilient agricultural systems, while achieving adaptation and mitigation benefits. Hence, valuable insights can be obtained from smallholder farmers in responding to present and forthcoming challenges of climate change impacts. However, there is little research work on trade-off and synergy assessments. Taking Geshy watershed in Southwest Ethiopia as a case study area, both quantitative and qualitative data analysis were undertaken in this study. The data were collected from 15 key informant interviews, 6 focus group discussions, and 384 households to answer the following questions: (1) what are the top 5 preferred CSA practices for smallholder farmers in Geshy watershed when coping with the impacts of climate change? (2) What is the performance of the preferred CSA practices? And (3) which trade-offs and synergies are experienced upon the implementation of CSA practices? The study came up with the most preferred CSA practices such as the use of improved crop varieties, small-scale irrigation, improved animal husbandry, the use of efficient inorganic fertilizers, and crop rotation with legumes. The selected CSA practices showed that the productivity goal exhibit the best synergy, while the mitigation goal has trade-offs. The study also indicated that the use of improved crop varieties causes high synergies in all 3 goals of CSA practices; small-scale irrigation provides a medium synergy on productivity goal but high synergy for adaptation and mitigation goals; improved animal husbandry shows a high synergy with the adaptation goal, a relatively lower synergy with the productivity goal, and a trade-off with the mitigation goal; the use of efficient inorganic fertilizers shows maximum synergy for the productivity and adaptation goals; and crop rotation with legumes exhibits high synergy with the productivity and mitigation goals but a relatively lower synergy with the adaptation goal. These results can provide evidence to various stakeholder farmers in the value chain that the impacts of climate change can be addressed by the adoption of CSA practices. In general, CSA practices are considered indispensable. Smallholder farmers prefer CSA practices that help to increase crop productivity and household resilience to climate change impacts. The results generate a vital foundation for recommendations to smallholder farming decision-makers. It also sensitizes actions for innovative and sustainable methods that are able to upscale the preferred CSA practices in the agricultural system in Geshy watershed of Southwest Ethiopia and other regions.

Key words: Climate-smart agriculture (CSA), Climate change, Synergies, Trade-offs, Productivity, Adaptation, Mitigation, Geshy watershed