Farmers’ Perception and Adaptation to Climate Change in the Central Dry Zone of Myanmar

Master's Thesis, 2017
79 Pages, Grade: 1.5


Table of Contents

1.1 Research objectives of the study
1.2 Structure of the thesis

2.1 Actions of Climate change
2.2 The impacts of climate change on agriculture
2.3 Vulnerability, adaptation, and resilience to hazard and risks by climate change
2.4. Linkage between perception and adaptation of the farmers to climate change

3.1 The perception aspects of farmers to climate change
3.2 The adaptation aspects of farmers to climate change
3.3 Overview of climate risks and climate change aspects in the Central Dry Zone
3.4 Overview of important social and economic characteristics of Central Dry Zone

4.1 Review of the study area
4.2 Review of Study group
4.3 Questionnaires
4.4 Participatory Rural Appraisals (PRA)
4.4.1 Village hazard map
4.4.2 Historical timeline
4.4.3 Seasonal Calendar
4.4.4 Ranking impacts
4.4.5 Line graphs
4.4.6 Semi-structured interview (Part 2 of PRA)
4.5 Key informant interview

5.1 'General description of survey respondents
5.1.1 age and gender status of respondents
5.1.2 Literacy and education status of the respondents
5.1.3 Income structure of the respondents
5.1.4 Farmers’ property and access to resources
5.2 Farmers’ perception on climate change impacts in Central Dry Zone (CDZ)
5.2.1 Understanding Climate Change: it’s meaning and climate change trends
5.2.2 Farmers’ experience of living with natural disasters
5.2.3 Farmers’ perception of climate change impacts on crop production
5.3 Farmers’ adaptation to climate change impacts in agricultural production
5.3.1 Changes in crops
5.3.2 Changes in crop varieties
5.3.3 Changes in cropping practices
5.3.4 Adoption of land and water resource management
5.3.5 Adaptation: outcomes and inputs needed
5.3.6 Unfinished adaptation: Reasons for not adapting

6.1. Exposure to climate risks, perception of climate risks, needs for adaptation...
6.2. Adaptation practices, relations to risk perception, adaptation, outcomes
6.3. Conditions for successful adaptation








I am deeply grateful for the help and support of so many people. I appreciate their assistance very much in every step of the process of this Master Thesis.

Firstly, I would like to show my sincere gratitude to my supervisor, Prof. Dr. Patrick Sakdapolrak who enabled me to do this research as part of Trans Project in Myanmar.

My sincere thank goes to Prof. Dr. Mathias Becker, not only our Program Director of Agricultural science and resource management of the Tropics and Sub-tropics (ARTS) but also my co­supervisor who gives me an opportunity to study in this program and acts as co-supervisor in my research with his insightful and encouragement for my master study. And, I am appreciative him for his enjoyable, interesting lectures with full of knowledge and experience.

In addition to my supervisors, I would like to thank Mr. Harald Sterly, for his continuous support of my master’s study program and related research, and for his patience, encouragement and immense knowledge. His guidance helped me in all aspects of the research and in writing up of this thesis, I could not have wished for a better advisor and mentor for my study.

My thankful appreciation expresses to DAAD, German Academic Exchange Services, for great financial support throughout my study in Germany contributing aboard experience and knowledge. My appreciation goes to Mrs. Susanne Hermes, coordinator of our program, who always provides us with kind suggestions.

I would like to express my appreciation to Mr. Khin Maung Nyunt, Regional Officer, Department of Agriculture, Sagaing Region who provides me with kind suggestions and supports to conduct my research efficiently in time within the study area. My gratitude goes to District Officers,Township Officers and extension staff from the study for their valuable support during my research study. I thank the farmers in advance for their well-participation patiently and on eager in case of interviews, questionnaires and participatory rural appraisals although they were so busy at this survey time.

Finally, I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to my family who always understand me, cheer up me and spiritually encourage me whenever I face any condition. And, I would like to say Big Thank to Zoran Radakovic who deals with my temper and erased my worries during the whole process of studying in Germany for his patience and understanding.


Kindly to My parents: U Htay Min and Daw Yee Yee Myint, Ma Ma Gyi, Cthu and Zoro


Table 1. Temperature trend till 2007 in Central Dry Zone of Myanmar

Table 2. Perception of farmers on trends of climate in Central Dry Zone


Figure 1. The timescales applicable to weather, climate variability and climate change

Figure 2. The flow of functional resilience

Figure 3. (a) Annual average precipitation of Myanmar

Figure 3. (b) Annual mean temperature of Myanmar

Figure 4. The potential hazard levels for climate change features due to the global warming

Figure 5. Map of the study area

Figure 6. The gender of the respondents by the age groups

Figure 7. The literacy and educational status of respondents in study area

Figure 8. Another income structures of the respondents in the study areas

Figure 9. Access to resources of the respondents in the study area

Figure 10. Percentage of respondents experiencing natural disasters they faced

Figure 11. Perception of the respondents on the frequency of hazards

Figure 12. Perception of climate change impacts on crop production

Figure 13. Perception of the severity of different risks for agriculture in the past 10 years

Figure 14. Percentage of respondent taking measures of changes to climate change impacts

Figure 15: Value of crop production, within past 10 years (between 2007 and 2017)

Figure 16. Cropping pattern of Dry Zone farmer, past 10 years(2007) and current year (2017)

Figure 17. The outcome of adaptation strategies applied within past 10 years

Figure 18. The outcome of different adaptation strategies (on profit)

Figure 19. Unaccomplished adaptation: The reason why they do not apply adaptation


Picture 1. Focus Group Discussion with farmers (left), Interviews with the village elder (right

Picture 2. Village hazard map-dotted red line and crosses are showing the hazard affected area (left); Village hazard map drawn by farmers (right)

Picture 3. Two farmers are showing the water mark by flooding last year

Picture 4. The invoices of total pesticide bought by a respondent within a year

Picture 5. Ranking the hazards by the respondent (left); rank of hazards based on the intensity of effects in the farming activities (right

Picture 6. Line graph showed the amount of most common crops with past 10 years

Picture 7. Making seasonal calendar with the farmers in PRA (left); seasonal calendar showing the past ten years in blue crosses and the current year in red crosses (right)


The Central Dry Zone covers about 13 % of Myanmar and is home to nearly a third of the total population of 52 million. The majority of households depend on agriculture-based income (83%). Besides low profitability, poor diversification, and high reliance on credit, these agricultural households are subject to additional stress by soil degradation, erratic rainfall patterns and extreme temperatures, and commodity price fluctuations. Particularly the climate change phenomena have become recently a major constraining factor for agricultural production in the Dry Zone. In this study we explore how farmers perceive agricultural problems in relation to climate change, and which strategies they apply to cope with and adapt agricultural practices to climate change based on traditional knowledge. Based on household surveys, participatory rural appraisals (PRA) and key-informant interviews it can be concluded that most farmers recognize climate change as a key constraint as they perceive their agricultural production being severely impacted, particularly by erratic rainfall. In response to increasingly frequent pre­monsoon droughts, some farmers have actually abandoned during the past 15 years cultivating rice as the main subsistence and market-crop, but also the cultivation of pre-monsoon crops such as sesame. Most farmers have traditionally been dealing with climatic risks by providing supplementary irrigation, e.g. by establishing tube wells, by cultivating short-cycled cash crop instead of rice, and by substituting annual crops by fruit orchards. Some farmers have done changes in cropping patterns and agronomic practices. These differentially affect adaptation to climate change and there are still needs of institutional support with the knowledge and technology for the unfinished-adaptation measures. There are the strong linkages between farmers’ perceptions and their adaptation to climate risks at the farm level, and the adaptation measures are likely conducted on their own knowledge. Traditional knowledge and expert knowledge must be combined in order to work for successful adaptation to climate change.

Key words: agronomic practices, drought, erratic rainfall, groundwater adoption, traditional and expert knowledge.


"Lack of rainfall in pre-monsoon makes us already forget the pre-monsoon sesame. How long we don’t get the yield of pre-monsoon sesame is as long as my age. "

Khin Swe Win (32 years old farmer, Monywa)

Agriculture has been and continues to be an essential source of livelihood in Myanmar. However, rural and agricultural communities continue to be affected by poverty and limited access to social and infrastructure services (Kyaw&Routray, 2006, Mercy Corps, 2015). Myanmar is already experiencing climate change as predicted and observed by the scientific community. As of the Germanwatch Global Climate Risk Index, Myanmar is ranked as one of the most at-risk countries with a high livelihood of a medium to large scale disaster occurring every couple of years in the periods of 1995 to 2014 (Kreft et al., 2014, p.6). Moreover, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) described that Myanmar is disposed to cyclone, earthquake, and drought, followed by heavy rainfall and flood in a province (IFRC, 2015, p. 64). The country frequently experiences climate hazard events such as falling dry of the main rivers, Ayeyarwaddy river and Chin Twin river; extraordinary rain in much of the country; untimely snow falls in the northern part; and increased erosion in the coastal area (Tun, W.N., 2015). The average number of annual rainy days has declined about more than 40 days in the central Myanmar and by seven days in other parts of the country between 1977 and 1997. ENSO, El Niño and La Niña years 1982-1983 and 1997-1998, resulted in large deficient rainfall and late onset and earlier withdrawal of the monsoon than normal, with excess rain in some areas, and droughts others, and with the highest maximum temperatures recorded in ENSO years (Tun, W., 2012).

The International Water Management Institute (IWMI) estimates that the susceptibility to drought and higher rainfall variability is likely to increase in the Dry Zone (IWMI, 2013). The Department of Meteorology and Hydrology (DMH) of Myanmar warns that the drought hazard in the Dry Zone will become probably more severe in the coming century (Dai, 2012). Water scarcity creates additional costs for farmers to get water supply (FAO, 2002). The drought risks are believed to be "high” for Dry Zone regions, and they have adverse effects on crop and livestock production and on drinking water availability (ADPC, 2009; Tin Yi, 2012). Blaikie & Kyi (2004) expressed concern that slow onset drought hazards might become among the greatest threats to humanity, as long periods of dry spells cause food deficiency for people and animals (Blaikie & Kyi, 2004).

World Bank (2013) states that the agricultural sector of Myanmar is providing one of the highest percentage of national gross domestic product (GDP) among the countries worldwide (Kim.J, 2013). Therefore, it is necessary to investigate about whether and how climate change and related risks could affect the agricultural system. Water scarcity, pest infestation and yield declines caused by climate change are supposed to severely affect the regional economy and food security in the future. This aggravates the effects of unstable environmental conditions, an inactivating governance and policy context and unproductive agricultural markets that are already harming the agriculture-based communities in the Central Dry Zone of Myanmar. (Mercy Corps, 2015). Climate change has become a challenge to poor farmers since these farmers’ livelihoods rely on agricultural production. A current study by Swe et. al (2015) shows that traditional knowledge and current strategies of farmers in the Dry Zone are no longer able to provide adequate adaptation to the impacts of climate change. Moreover, Dry Zone farmers need to get support such as accurate and regular broadcasting of weather-related information, and efficient and effective agricultural techniques for weed, pest and disease controls (Swe, 2015). Dry Zone farmers are more likely influenced by climate change due to their limited adaptive capacity, poor access to knowledge and technology, and low mechanization in the farming system.

1.1 Research objectives of the study

The first research objective is to understand how the local farmers perceive climate risks and climate change, and which needs for adaptation they derive from that.

The following research questions arise from that:

- To which climate change-related risks and hazards are farmers exposed in this area? How sensitive are agricultural systems to these hazards?
- How and how much do the farmers perceive these climate hazards?
- Which needs for adaptation do they express?

The second objective is to explore local farmers’ practices of adaptation against these climate risks. This translates to the following research questions:

- How are local farmers changing their ways of agricultural production? Particularly, what crop changes occurred in the past ten years? What other changes in cropping practices, including cropping patterns, cropping times and varieties did occur within the previous ten years?
- In how far and how can these changes be attributed to exposure and perception of farmers to climate change and climate risks?
- What are the outcomes of the adaptation strategies?

The third objective is to understand conditions that foster or constrain positive change, and derive farmers’ needs for different types of support. Therefore, the following research questions need to be addressed:

- Which factors do facilitate successful adaptation of local farmers? Which factors do constrain such adaptation or keep farmers from adapting?
- What types of support needed from institutional (governmental) level to support successful adaptation of farmers?

1.2 Structure of the thesis

The thesis is structured in nine chapters. The first chapter, introduction, is followed by an overview of the underlying concepts and frameworks: climate change, climate risk and their impacts on agriculture; their perception by farmers; and aspects of vulnerability, adaptation and resilience. The third chapter presents a review of literature about the perception and adaptation aspects of farmers to climate change, as well as an overview of climate risks and climate change aspects in the Central Dry Zone and an overview of the socio-economic characteristics of Dry Zone farming communities.

The fourth chapter provides the methodological and empirical measures of the thesis that were used to address the outlined questions. The fifth chapter, results of the study, presents the findings of three subsections: 1.) Basic characteristics of Dry Zone farmers in study area; 2.) Perception of the farmers on climate change trends, causes for climate change and how they experience their exposure to hazards and impacts of climate change in agricultural production; and 3.) the adaptation strategies which the farmers have been applying based on their perception what they get, what the reasons are driving the farmers to adapt to climate change, the outcomes of applied adaptation measures, and unfinished adaptation measures.

In the sixth chapter, the results are interpreted and discussed in comparison with other studies. The seventh chapter addresses limitations of this study with regard to its methodology. The eighth chapter is the conclusion of the study. A ninth chapter provides recommendations of this study from different views of stakeholders.


This chapter provides an overview of the concepts and frameworks of the study. First, the underlying concept of climate change and climate risks and the linkages of climate change and its impacts on agricultural production are explained. Then, the concepts of vulnerability, adaptation and resilience are presented and the linkage between perception and adaptation of farmers to climate change is introduced.

2.1 Actions of Climate change

Climate change refers to any long-term change in Earth's climate, or in the climate of a region or city. This includes warming, cooling, and changes besides temperature, such as changes in atmospheric circulation or seasonal precipitation patterns. As shown in figure 1, weather refers to phenomena with durations of hours, days and maybe months; climate variability refers to changes with durations of months, years and decades; and climate change refers to changes over decades and centuries. Examples of weather phenomena are rain storms that might last one or two hours and tropical cyclones that may last days. Climate variability occurs with climate patterns such as the El-Nino Southern Oscillation, and climate change refers to long-term changes and trends, like global warming (CSIRO, 2017).

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Figure 1. The timescales applicable to weather, climate variability and climate change (CSIRO, 2017)

2.2 The impacts of climate change on agriculture

Climate change is likely to influence the agricultural production and food security worldwide. The climate variables of temperature, rainfall, radiation, etc. are necessary to consider the crop productivity in various ways. The temperature increasing greater than 3°C is likely to affect negatively all of around the world. (IPCC, 2007). Lobell and Field, 2007 explained warming temperature, followed by carbon dioxide concentration regarding increased temperature, affects the yields of crops from a small result to significant one in year-to-year difference within two decades (Lobell & Field, 2007). Warmer winters have important effects, e.g., winter freezes are critical in many regions for minimizing future pest and disease outbreaks (Hansen, Sato, & Ruedy, 2012). Risks such as floods and drought are likely to be exacerbated due to change in temperature and rainfall.

The change in climate poses significant challenges for the development of agricultural- based countries (Adger, Huq, & Brown, 2003). Higher variability of climate, including temperature, precipitation and other hazards is likely to increase the impacts on agricultural production due to the response of crops (Lin, 2011, p. 183-193). Fuhrer 2003, Jones and Thornton 2003 explain that the effects include also shifting in nutrient cycling and soil moisture, as well as changes in pest and diseases infestation: all of that will greatly influence food production and food security. Moreover, these changes are expected to increase abiotic and biotic stress, forcing the agricultural system to function under greater levels of perturbation in the future (Lin, 2011, p. 183-193). Matsui, 2001 found out that the high temperature decreases the number of germinated pollen grains per stigma, mainly through poor pollination in japonica rice (Matsui, Omasa, & Horie, 2001), whereas Satake and Yoshida, 1978 found that in Indica rice varieties higher temperature impacts on the fertilization of the florets in flowering days (Satake & Yoshida, 1978).

2.3 Vulnerability, adaptation, and resilience to hazards and risks by climate change

Climate change causes some environmental variables to alternate from the normal array of a system. It may become more difficult to anticipate specific effects with any certainty, particularly at the local level. The concepts of vulnerability, adaptive capacity, and resilience are applicable in biophysical domains and partly also in the social domain (Gallopin, 2006).Whereas

Holling (1973) referred to ecosystems and defined resilience as the propensity of a system to retain its organizational structure and productivity following perturbation (Holling 1973, in Lin, 2011, p.183-193), Folke (2010) widened the focus and see social-ecological resilience as being about people and nature as an interdependent or integrated system.

With reference to social systems, the concept of resilience is frequently operationalized by breaking it down in three capacities: absorptive or coping, adaptive and transformative capacities, with different outcomes of each capacity such as persistence, incremental adjustment or transformational response ( Béné, 2012; Keck & Sakdapolrak 2013).

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Figure 2. The flow of functional resilience (source: ( Béné, 2012, P.21-22) )

Coping or absorptive capacity is defined as the ability of the community to absorb events impacts using pre-determined coping responses (Cutter, 2008, p.599). The huge proportion of coping strategies applied by the individuals has the concept in moderating or buffering the impacts of the shocks on their livelihoods and basic needs, thus, the absorptive capacity is essential to set up adaptive and/or transformative capacity (Bene, 2012, p.21).

Adaptive capacity refers to the ability of systems to learn from and adjust their responses to changing external drivers, and to accordingly change their internal processes (Folke et al., 2010). The awareness of the need for change and the motivation to act are important basics for any adaptation measures (Pahl, 2014). Changes in water management, crop varieties or agricultural practices are examples for adaptation processes the can enhance the resilience of agricultural system to climate change, when agricultural production is challenged by extreme drought or large variability in rainfall.

Transformative capacity is likely to be associated with access to resources, rights and entitlements or the political and governance processes pertaining to climate change adaptation (Keck& Sakdapolrak, 2013,p.11; Hillmann. F, 2015, p.6).

Although defined differently by the authors, a fundamental understanding of resilience refers to the interplay between persistence and change, or adaptability and transformability. To build resilience of a system, absorptive capacity, adaptive capacity and transformative capacity are fundamental issues that have to be harmonized.

Vulnerability can be understood as resulting from the expose to external stresses, the sensitivity of actors to such stresses, and their scope to adapt. The vulnerability of a system to climate change is determined by its exposure, by its physical setting and sensitivity, and by its ability and opportunity to adapt to change (Adger et al., 2003): “Vulnerability is the state of susceptibility to harm from exposure to stresses associated with environmental and social change and from the absence of capacity to adapt” (Adger, 2006,p.268).The length of exposure to climate change, the degree of sensitivity of a system to these changes are important to consider the level of vulnerability of a community.

2.4. Linkages between perception and adaptation of farmers to climate change

As mentioned above, the awareness or perception of risk is a basic prerequisite of any actions or adaptation towards risks. Risk perception comprises of the sensual perception which emerges from involvement with realities through practice and experiences made, and the cognitive ability to comprehend past and anticipate future changes. Cognitive beliefs and experiential risk perceptions regarding climate change are particularly disconnected (Makate, Makate, & Mango, 2017, p.207). While scientific understanding of climate change is based on analytical processing of large amounts of data, non-scientists tend to base judgments and decisions on associative and affective cognitive models that are evolutionarily older and rooted more in feeling than in scientific facts (Marx & Weber, 2012; Weber & Stern, 2011); thus, the public understanding of the phenomenon varies widely (Maibach, Roser-Renouf, & Leiserowitz, 2009). It is difficult to comprehend climate change for the general public because the causes (GHGs) are invisible, and signals and impacts are diffuse and difficult to predict or interpret correctly, especially at local levels and human time scales (Gleick, 2012; Weber & Stern, 2011)). Because climate change is hard to realize by personal experience, people’s perception depends on indirect sources of information on climate change, often interpreted and sometimes even manipulated by actors with disparate interests (Kahan et al., 2011; Weber & Stern, 2011).

Moreover, the formation of attitudes toward relatively new, emerging subjects such as climate change may be more strongly influenced by values and worldviews than by objective data (Weber & Stern, 2011).

Some authors stated that farmers are the ones who mainly carry out adaptation and mitigation efforts in agriculture (Berry, Rounsevell, Harrison, & Audsley, 2006) - certainly farmers are not only in need to adapt to climate change, but also to reduce emissions. If the farmers do not believe that climate change is happening or do not perceive it as a threat, they will not likely undertake adaptive or mitigate actions (Arbuckle et al. 2015). Thus, there is a need to realize the factors that drive their attitudes in various ways and hence are the basis for responses to climate changes impacts on agriculture (Tun Oo, 2015, Dunlap, 2010).

The relationship between a farmer's climate change perceptions and adaptation options can even be further complicated since perceptions regarding climate change such as rainfall patterns change over time (Makate et al., 2017). For instance, perceptions on rainfall can be driven by perceived changes in other climatic variables, such as temperature (Makate et al., 2017). Some studies’ observation suggested that such farmers with low adaptive capacity, limited information, and skills to perceive changes accurately may respond less when compared to other farmers (Abid, 2015; Debela, 2015; Mertz et al., 2011; Ndamani & Watanabe, 2015). Therefore, this thesis investigates the links between farmers’ perception of and adaptation to climate hazards and risks, by focusing on their perception of and experience with climate risks; their levels of exposure, vulnerability and sensitivity to climate risks and change; and their perception of the need for adaptation of their farming practices.


3.1 The perception aspects of farmers to climate change

Climate change perception is strongly related to the degree to which climate induced risks and opportunities affect the farmers and their livelihoods, and their responses and adaptation strategies are based on this perception (Adger, 2005; Adger et al., 2003; Ndamani & Watanabe, 2015). The perception of experiences of natural and environmental factors varies individually (Hartig, Kaiser, & Bowler, 2001), but also between social groups, geographic locations and seasons of the year; men, women, and children do experience different levels of hardship and opportunity in the face of climate change (Ndamani & Watanabe, 2015). Although the perceptions are not necessarily consistent with measurable reality, they are considered to adequately reflect real challenges (Kusakari et al., 2014). However, misconceptions about climate change and its associated risks may result in no adaptation or maladaptation, thus increasing the negative impact of climate change (Grothmann and Patt 2005). In Pakistan for example, the number of farmers who do adapt to climate change is substantially smaller than the number of farmers who perceived some climatic risk or who planned to adaptive strategies (Abid, Scheffran, Schneider, & Ashfaq, 2015, p. 225-243).

In many places it is documented that farmers are aware and do notice long-term changes of rainfall and temperature trends in their daily lives (Debela et al., 2015, Ndamani & Watanabe, 2015, Kusakari et al., 2014). Debela et. al (2015) report on high numbers of farmers who perceived changes in temperature and rainfall. They expressed this in terms of both higher day and night time temperatures, below normal rainfall amounts, short duration and late onset of rainy seasons and higher frequency and intensity of extreme weather events in Ethiopia. Ndamani and Watanabe (2015) note that the degree of change that farmers perceive also depends on their exposure levels, resilience and adaptive capacities (Ndamani & Watanabe, 2015, p. 4593-4604). A large proportion of farmers perceived that they are most vulnerable to changes in the onset of planting season, poor rainfall amount and distribution during the cropping season - all factors that can lead to reduced yields and food insecurity. Over 80% of respondents reported to face serious risks due to increasing temperatures and to flooding that occurs in the area (Ndamani & Watanabe, 2015, p. 4593-4604). The smallholder farmers in South Africa studied by Makate et. al. (2017) perceived increased temperature to have a slightly positive effect on their livestock, but a larger negative effect on crop production. This perception of climate change impacts drives them to boost their current production by increasing input use to guard against future adverse impacts from climate change (Makate et al., 2017). In the Sudano-Sahelian region of West Africa, where a decrease in rainfall is very likely, according to the national statistics climate also may not be the most significant driver of change in the future, and the climate change awareness of farmers even decreases (Mertz et al., 2011, p. 104-108).

Kusakari et al. (2014) observed variations in perceptions of different groups based on gender, age group (elders and youth), community, and livelihood activities in which they are engaged in Bangladesh. The farmers thought their future depend on climate factors (Debela et al., 2015, p.233-236). In many cases, also belief systems do influence the perception of climate change and individual vulnerability (Kusakari et. al, 2014; Patt and Schroeter, 2008; Debelate et. al, 2014). Hazards like flooding or drought are for example interpreted as results of the sins of people and disrespect to God (Kusakari et al., 2014). Almost half of the smallholder farmers interviewed in Ethiopia by Debela et al. considered humanity to be cursed as a punishment due to the disobedience and unfaithfulness to God’s rules; this is then seen as the main cause of climate change (Debela et al., 2015, p. 236).

Risk perception also varies with education and literal status and access to information on climate change, as well as with the activity of local extension services (Debela et al., 2015). Therefore, Tegart (2012) argue that knowledge gaps are also influencing people’s perceptions of climate change (Tegart et al., 2012). The perception of risks from the psychological studies described that the people intend to look up on recent risks levels as unacceptably high for most activities (Slovic, 1987,p.283). People perception of risks are subjected by a variety of psychological and social aspects: the experience of the individual, length of the touch and emotion, imagery, belief and traditional values (Solvic&Weber, 2013; Leiserowitz, 2006; Slovic, 1987).

Thus, it must be considered that farmers’ adaptation strategies to environmental and climate change are strongly influenced by perceptions and opinions, as well as belief and social- cultural value systems (Arbuckle et al., 2015, Makate et al., 2017).

3.2 The adaptation of farmers to climate change

Adger et al. (2003) conceive adaptation as the actions made by individuals, groups or governments to decrease the sensitivity or the vulnerability of systems, or by strengthening the existing systems to resist to the damages by unusual phenomena (Adger et al., 2003). Adaptation can be built up by the adaptive capacity of the individuals or communities to establish the adoption measures and by transforming capacity by setting up the decisions to the action (Adger, Arnell, & Tompkins, 2005,p.78).

Ndamani & Watanabe examined adaptation of farming practices in Ghana. To adjust to changing temperature and rainfall, a majority of the farmers increased crop varieties, while some induced mixed cropping, cover cropping, crop rotation or mulching methods, and some adopted livestock production. Some farmers changed amount and time of pesticide and fertilizer application, or changed irrigation methods (Ndamani & Watanabe, 2015).

In Pakistan, farmers’ adaptation strategies comprised the usage of different crop varieties, changing plant dates, planting shade trees and changing the type of fertilizer, as their farming depends more on rain and groundwater availability (Abid et al., 2015).

Perceptions of changes in rainfall and temperature significantly affect the use or adoption of sustainable agricultural practices, consisting of the use of grain/leguminous rotations, use of inorganic fertilizers, use of compost manure, ownership of livestock units, and use of farmyard manure in South Africa (Makate et al., 2017). To reduce the vulnerability of rural people to climate change and to develop rural adaptive capacity in West Africa, many governments provide training to farmers and the dissemination of seasonal weather forecasts, which can help them to make better decisions, and they improve infrastructures for seed, fertilizer and pesticide distribution, irrigation, functional credit and market access (Mertz et al., 2011).

Maddison (2007) has identified a large variety of adaptation strategies in different African countries: In Cameroon and South Africa, the use of more varieties of the same crop is an important adaptation measure, while changes in planting dates are in Egypt, Kenya, and Senegal. In Egypt, a large proportion of farmers have switched to non-farming activities. In Burkina Faso, Kenya, and Niger he observes an increased use of irrigation methods and water conservation techniques, and an increasing use of shading and sheltering. However, in several countries in Africa such as Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ghana, South Africa or Zambia, a third of farmers do not change their agricultural practices yet, while most farmers in Egypt and Ethiopia have carried out at least one adaptation strategy (David Maddison, 2007).

The ability to adapt also depend on farmers’ assets and access to resources: Elum et al. (2016) found for farmers in South Africa that the majority of them did not have insurance due to a lack of awareness and their inability to pay the premiums. They argue that farmers' access to improved seeds which are tolerant to drought, access to the formal market as well as the use of efficient micro-irrigation systems should be enhanced, and that farmers should get support such as premium subsidies and insurance sensitization. Abid et al. (2015) analyzed the reasons for non-adoption in Pakistan, and they found lack of information, finances, little access to inputs such as improved seeds or fertilizer and to farm implements like tools or machinery are key constraints.

3.3 Overview of climate risks and climate change aspects in Myanmar and the Central Dry Zone

Climate change becomes manifest in different patterns of climate variables and physical phenomena, among others in increasing climate hazards: some violently impending such as tropical cyclones and floods and some slowly damaging like drought (Tun, W. ,2012). As one aspect of climate change, the precipitation patterns in Myanmar are reported to be changing. Total annual rainfall is decreasing, while the temperature is increasing (Tin Yi, 2012). The Department of Meteorology and Hydrology reports that the monsoon season is shifting, resulting in more frequent occurrences of delayed monsoon onset, early monsoon withdrawal and shorter monsoon duration since 1977 (Tin Yi, 2012). On the other hand, heat and drought risks have increased in Myanmar: normal monsoon break became weaker and disappeared in the 1990s, and the monsoon depression became less significant in the 1980s and 1990s (Tin Yi, 2012; Tin Yi, 2004). Moreover, annual rainfall quantity in the Central Dry Zone is project to decrease by 45 percent within the twenty-first century. Whereas the temperature in Myanmar is projected to increase on average about 0.5°C, it will probably rise by 0.7 to 1.2 °C in the Dry Zone area ( Tin Yi, 2004).

In most monsoon countries like Myanmar, the crop production faces the risk of floods and typhoons during the monsoon season and of droughts during the dry season as well as intermittent dry spells during the wet season, and of shifting in the onset and end of the monsoon. Late onsets of monsoon result in a delay of crop planting and soil preparation, especially in paddy and disturb the other crops following paddy rice. Moreover, a late monsoon and reduced duration of monsoon decreases crop yield; especially the early withdrawal of monsoon rains severely affects harvest and crop productivity. Copious late rains and strong winds can damage the crops which are already ripened and interrupt the harvesting processes (Tun, W., 2012, p.54-95). The amount of annual rainfall and availability of irrigation determine the sowing area of the crops especially in the Central Dry Zone in Myanmar, since coverage with irrigation is limited due to the insufficient system and infrastructure. Changes in rainfall pattern and distribution and extreme temperatures are effectively leading to a shortened vegetative period and reduced growth rates, resulting in declining yields and production.

The Central Dry Zone, covering Lower Sagaing Region, Mandalay Region, and Magway Region, is the most fragile area to climate risks and variability in Myanmar. In the Dry Zone, rainfall pattern is erratic, in many years with significantly lower rainfall than normal (700-960 mm), which is already less than in other parts of Myanmar (Figure 3 (a)) (Kyi, 2004; Tin Yi, 2012; Tun, W., 2012). Precipitation occurs largely during May to October, and often an intermediate dry spell happens in June or July (United Nations Human Settlements Programme, 2016). Average annual rainfall in the CDZ is slightly decreasing to 765 mm in 2007, having - 17.35 mm lower than normal during 1991-2000 (Tun, W., 2012).

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Figure 3. (a) Annual average precipitation of Myanmar (Win Zin & Rutten, 2017), (b)Annual mean temperature trend of Myanmar (Tun, W., 2012,p.131)

The trend of annual mean temperature of Dry Zone is the highest in the country (Figure 3 (b)). The average annual temperature in Magway Region, Dry Zone is the highest in the country, being 27.5°C for the WMO normal period of 1961-1990. Between 1951 and 2007 the annual mean temperatures increased in two regions of Dry Zone, with the rate of warming per decade being highest with 0.30°C/10yrs in Lower Sagaing Region, Dry Zone and 0.2°C/10yrs in Mandalay Region. Cooling trends of -0.23°C/decade were observed in Magway Region, Dry Zone, shown in table 1(Tun, W., 2012, p. 128-130, Tin Yi, 2012; Tun, T., 2000; Tin Yi, 2004). Heat waves occur between March and June, with heat wave frequency being highest in May, with a range of 0.1°C to 0.9 °C higher than the mean maximum within May (W. Tun, 2012, p.131- 132).

Table 1. Temperature trend till 2007 in Central Dry Zone of Myanmar

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Long term of water shortage forced by heat wave and extreme temperature emerges drought. Severe drought occurred in the Dry Zone in 1954, 1957, 1961, 1972, 1979 and 1991 (Tun, W., 2012). As of the classification of potential hazard level for drought, the Dry Zone is projected to be in the zone of ”High” drought risk (Figure 4). The monsoon rain is bimodal with a drought period especially in July; this dry spell is extending, sometime until September, when dry desiccating winds blow from the South (Tin Yi, 2012). Increased temperature and declined precipitation in central Myanmar result in the expansion of the country’s Dry Zone area - which is defined as receiving an annual rainfall less than 1000 millimeter (Tun, W., 2012, p. 94).

The Dry Zone Region experiences extensive floods from the Chindwin River and Ayeyarwaddy River, about once to twice per year in Sagaing Region, frequently in Mandalay Region and 24 times in 32 years with the highest flood record in 1974 in Magway region. The floods in the region are attributed with successive floods in the lower reaches of the rivers, down to Ayeyarwaddy Delta (Tun, W.,2012). Heavy rains due to remnants of severe cyclones and remnants of a typhoon from South China Sea that crossed the Rakhine coast induced flash floods in these Dry Zone regions in 1974 (Tun, W., 2012, p. 125-130).

The Central Dry Zone is susceptible to limited water availability and quality, since the seasonal and dry climate are aggravated by rising temperatures and increasing rainfall variability (United Nations Human Settlements Programme, 2016). A shorter monsoon season results in water shortages for agriculture, drinking water and livestock; and higher temperatures result in faster evaporation, lowering agricultural yields and impacting nutrient cycling. Severe heat affects livestock health and agricultural productivity (United Nations Human Settlements Programme, 2016). Thus, the challenge for the Dry Zone farmers is to innovate sustainable agricultural strategies using their traditional knowledge combined with advanced technology and knowledge, to maintain the functional strategies and protect their livelihoods.

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Figure 4. The potential hazard levels for climate change features due to the global warming in 2012 (source: DMH,2009 and Tun, 2012)

3.4 Overview of important social and economic characteristics of Central Dry Zone

The Central Dry Zone of Myanmar is characterized by high population density (34% of 52 million in the total population of Myanmar in 2015 reported by UNDP,2015, and covering 54,000 km (13%) of the land (ADB, 2013; Mercy Corps, 2015; UNDP,2015). The mean years of schooling are 4.7, and population with at least some secondary education (of population aged 25 and older) is 23.8 % in Myanmar (Jahan, 2016). Relatively few peoples have completed education beyond grade-5 level, and virtually none have vocational training in some areas of Dry Zone (United Nations Human Settlements Programme, 2016).

The livelihood base of the communities in Dry Zone is mainly farming. As of the JICA (2010) report, the Dry Zone livelihoods are strongly dependent on agriculture with 58% coming from crop production, 25% from farm work, while the rest of 17% are based on livestock production, industrial work and regular employment for government, trading and remittances. (JICA, 2010). Many young people are out-migrating, resulting in older and less skilled laborers remaining in the Dry Zone (United Nations Human Settlements Programme, 2016, p. 9). World Bank (2012) also show that farming and casual employment in the agriculture segment are the two main livelihood activities in the Dry Zone. Average farm size in Dry Zone is small but larger than the national average. More than half of farms are less than five hectares (54%) and 83% are less than 10 hectares (FAO, 2010). Non-farm households or landless contributes 42.5%of the total rural households in the Central Dry Zone (JICA, 2010). Since irrigation infrastructures are covering less than 16% of the cultivated land in the Dry Zone, the proportion of irrigated farmland is still lower, and the availability of groundwater is very important for the communities (IWMI, 2013). Housing infrastructure are susceptible to the strong wind and floods especially in the area along the river banks (United Nations Human Settlements Programme, 2016). A lack of infrastructure for water harvesting and storage makes freshwater availability at community level even worse. Poor transportation contributes to high vulnerability to hazards (United Nations Human Settlements Programme, 2016), but also to less market access in the communities. A significant number of Dry Zone farmers have the lack of well- build and quality road links from the villages to township and state capitals, which puts the Dry Zone farming communities at a significant comparative market disadvantage (FAO, 2010).


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Farmers’ Perception and Adaptation to Climate Change in the Central Dry Zone of Myanmar
University of Bonn  (Faculty of Agriculture)
Agricultural sciences and resource management in the tropics and sub-tropics
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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Farmer, Climate, Change, Dry, Myanmar, Adaption, agronomic practices, drought, erratic rainfall, groundwater adoption, traditional and expert knowledge.
Quote paper
Akary Min (Author), 2017, Farmers’ Perception and Adaptation to Climate Change in the Central Dry Zone of Myanmar, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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