Some of the most important impacts of global climate change will be felt among the populations, predominantly in developing countries, referred to as ‘‘subsistence’’ or ‘‘smallholder’’ farmers. Their vulnerability to climate change comes both from being predominantly located in the tropics, and from various socioeconomic, demographic, and policy trends limiting their capacity to adapt to change. However, these impacts will be difficult to model or predict because of (i) the lack of standardised definitions of these sorts of farming system, and therefore of standard data above the national level, (ii) intrinsic characteristics of these systems, particularly their complexity, their location-specificity, and their integration of agricultural and nonagricultural livelihood strategies, and (iii) their vulnerability to a range of climate-related and other stressors. Some recent work relevant to these farming systems is reviewed, a conceptual framework for understanding the diverse forms of impacts in an integrated manner is proposed, and future research needs are identified.

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John F. Morton

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Date of publication
March 2007
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Geographical Focus