Seasonal climate outlooks provide one tool to help decision-makers allocate resources in anticipation of poor, fair or good seasons. The aim of the ‘Climate Outlooks and Agent-Based Simulation of Adaptation in South Africa’ project has been to investigate whether individuals, who adapt gradually to annual climate variability, are better equipped to respond to longer-term climate variability and change in a sustainable manner. Seasonal climate outlooks provide information on expected annual rainfall and thus can be used to adjust seasonal agricultural strategies to respond to expected climate conditions. A case study of smallholder farmers in a village in Vhembe district, Limpopo Province, South Africa has been used to examine how such climate outlooks might influence agricultural strategies and how this climate information can be improved to be more useful to farmers. Empirical field data has been collected using surveys, participatory approaches and computer-based knowledge elicitation tools to investigate the drivers of decision-making with a focus on the role of climate, market and livelihood needs. This data is used in an agent-based social simulation which incorporates household agents with varying adaptation options which result in differing impacts on crop yields and thus food security, as a result of using or ignoring the seasonal outlook. Key variables are the skill of the forecast, the social communication of the forecast and the range of available household and community-based risk coping strategies. This research provides a novel approach for exploring adaptation within the context of climate change.
- © 2005 The Royal Society