Diversify Income

On-farm adaptations are not the only possibility for bolstering food security in the face of a changing climate. Recall from Chapter 2 that while many rural poor lean heavily on agricultural activities for income generation, off-farm income can also play an important role in economic livelihoods. To the extent that non-agricultural income sources are less climate-sensitive than farm activities, further diversification of incomes out of agriculture might seem a promising adaptation strategy in the face of a changing climate. Indeed, some commentators have suggested that such a strategy is the only plausible way that Africa can adapt to climate change (Collier et al. 2008).

The ability of an income diversification strategy to buffer food security in the face of a short-run climate shock or longer-run climate shift depends on the offfarm income-generating activities available, and the extent to which households can take advantage of them. As Davis et al. (2007) show, almost all rural households earn at least some off-farm income, but the nature and motivation of this earning can differ significantly. For some households, off-farm work in manufacturing or in the service sector can offer much higher returns than farming, and households that can take advantage of these opportunities often benefit greatly.

But for many of the poorest households, participation in these potentially more lucrative non-farm activities is often limited by liquidity or human capital constraints (the cash to invest in a sewing machine, for instance, or the skills to run it). For these households, off-farm income generation often entails lower-return activities such as seasonal wage labor, which are used more as a coping strategy to deal with seasonal credit constraints in agriculture or with farm productivity shocks due to climate or other factors.

Using off-farm income as a climate coping strategy is likely more successful when climate shocks are idiosyncratic rather than covariate - i.e. when in a given year they affect some households in a region but not others. This is because in many developing countries, particularly the poorest ones, returns to off-farm activities can be highly correlated with agricultural productivity (Jayachandran 2006; World Bank 2008b). If most people in a village are farmers, and all experience a yield (and thus income) decline simultaneously, then demand for both agricultural wage labor and off-farm goods and services will likely also fall.

Overall, if there are specialization options available, and households can take advantage of them, then diversification looks like a very appealing adaptation to climate change. But where diversification is used as a necessary but low-return coping strategy and households face significant barriers to entry into higher-return activities, or where the non-farm rural economy is tightly linked to an agricultural sector deeply harmed by climate change, then income diversification looks less promising. Again, as with new technology adoption, diversification will likely be more challenging in poorer countries with less developed infrastructure, and for poorer households within those countries.

Renewable Energy 101

Renewable Energy 101

Renewable energy is energy that is generated from sunlight, rain, tides, geothermal heat and wind. These sources are naturally and constantly replenished, which is why they are deemed as renewable. The usage of renewable energy sources is very important when considering the sustainability of the existing energy usage of the world. While there is currently an abundance of non-renewable energy sources, such as nuclear fuels, these energy sources are depleting. In addition to being a non-renewable supply, the non-renewable energy sources release emissions into the air, which has an adverse effect on the environment.

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