Farmers across the world have a creative way of adapting to climate change

While world leaders are discussing climate change during a summit in Paris, farmers across the globe are already adapting.

Researchers from the University of Tokyo and the University of Cape Town recently published findings after studying apple farmers in Nagano and Kazuno, Japan and in Elgin, South Africa.

While there are so many factors that go into successful farming — from geography to economics — this is one of few studies that look at the stress of climate change. The researchers visited the farms and did other field work to help understand the adaptations and whether they were working.

The changes that they found were both bottom-up (from the farmers) and top-down (from the various governments) strategies, and that there are benefits to both. It turns out that if the institution begins to tackle the issue, then the farmers follow their lead, but if not, they use their own ingenuity to get started, the researchers discovered. For example, the top-down approach tended to try to re-mediate the existing problem by introducing new apple varieties, whereas the farmers on their own tended to be more innovative, introducing peach trees in the coldest regions.

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“A suitable combination of top-down and bottom-up adaptations could lead to broader adoption of innovative adaptations in agriculture,” Kazuhiko Kobayashi, one of the Japanese researchers said in a press release. “This study sheds light on the important yet poorly studied topic of farmers’ adaptations to climate change. We would like to emphasize that more farm-level studies for various crops and regions are warranted to provide evidential feedback to climate change adaptation policy.”

Two of the areas in the study — Elgin and Nagano — are already experiencing issues with their crop due to the changing weather, while researchers believe that Kazuno’s climate will remain suitable for apples for four or five decades. But that doesn’t mean that those farmers should wait to figure out some solutions.

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Lilee Williams is a freelance journalist and scientific study junkie based in Georgia. Email her at
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