This MRI-funded synthesis workshop, which became a small research project during the pandemic (fieldwork led by African students), addressed smallholder farmers’ adaptation to climate change in 10 African mountains.

With an emphasis on everyday practices of climate change adaptation among small-scale farmers in African mountains, workshop organizers sought to improve understanding of the challenges and opportunities for Transformative Adaptation to Climate Change; foster inter-regional dialogue; and initiate a network of mountain experts, providing opportunities for follow-on exchange and collaboration.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the in-person workshop originally planned was not possible. Instead, a virtual meeting was held, after which participants realised that there was little information available to be used as references for the publications they were planning. It was therefore decided to use the funds to gather information from local farmers, using a standardised questionnaire to be implemented by local university students.

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Pictured: Fieldwork in Bale Mountains, Ethiopia. 

During the course of one year, field data was gathered from 1,500 respondents in 10 mountains in eight countries: Bamboutos Mountains (Cameroon), Kagezi Highlands (Uganda), Nyungwe National Park (Rwanda), Kibira National Park (Burundi), Itombwe Mountains (Democratic Republic of Congo), Bale Mountains (Ethiopia), Mount Kenya and The Aberdare Range (Kenya), and Mount Kilimanjaro and Udzungwa Mountains (Tanzania). Notably, among the selected study sites there were two where insecurity issues challenged not just fieldwork but also climate change adaptation options for local farmers (Bamboutous Mountains and Itombwe Mountains).


Pictured. Fieldwork in Itombwe Mountains, Democratic Republic of Congo.

Students and their supervisors engaged in ten virtual workshops to analyse the newly collected data, discuss findings from each case study, and reflect on the implications of the challenges and opportunities identified across sites. One of the workshops also focused on ‘academic writing’ to help the students lead case-study publications as first authors.

Smaller groups of workshop participants are now working on these publications (two under review already) before they are translated into non-academic policy briefs, which will be translated into local languages and disseminated across these eight countries. Findings will also be presented at the International Mountain Conference (IMC) in September 2022. Moreover, part of the findings were incorporated into the IPCC WGII Sixth Assessment Report 'Cross-Chapter Paper 5: Mountains,' as the workshop organizers were involved in the chapter.

"We achieved even more than we aimed for, even if we never met in person: we gathered new field data from 10 mountains, contributed to capacity building of African students, and created a network of mountain experts in African Mountains," said workshop organizer Aida Cuni-Sanchez of the Norwegian University of Life Sciences.  

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Pictured: Fieldwork around Kibira National Park, Burundi.

Workshop participants found that there were similarities in adaptation strategies used by smallholder farmers (e.g., increased use of improved seeds, inputs, soil conservation techniques) but also differences across and within regions (e.g., irrigation), related to different biophysical, economic, and socio-cultural factors. Access to land, funds, and limited mutual learning opportunities between farmers and other agents of change were identified as major constraints to adaptation across sites. On the other side, strong social cohesion, traditional leadership and local agents of change (such as more advanced famers interchanging knowledge and providing smallholder farmers with initial inputs to try new crops or strategies) were found to be triggering enhanced adaptation.

"The pandemic gave us an opportunity: to gather the views of local farmers themselves, which then helped us identify common challenges and opportunities across sites. By working together we managed to help address an important knowledge gap in the continent. Indeed, synthesis workshops are a great way for pushing knowledge boundaries, we need more of such collaborative approaches," concluded Cuni-Sanchez.


Image: Zoom screenshot of synthesis workshop participants from Burundi, Cameroon DRC, Ethiopia, Kenya, Norway, Rwanda, Spain, Tanzania, Uganda, UK (Photo: Aida Cuni-Sanchez, December 2021).

A warm thank you goes to all workshop participants:


Family name




Université Catholique du Graben, Butembo, DR Congo



Université Officielle de Bukavu, Bukavu, DR Congo



Université du Cinquantenaire de de Lwiro, Lwiro, DR Congo


Berta Aneseyee

Wolkite University, Ethiopia



Mbarara University of Science and Technology, Mbarara, Uganda



Université Officielle de Bukavu, Bukavu, DR Congo



Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Norway



School for International Training, Arusha, Tanzania



University of Dschang, Dschang, Cameroon



College of African Wildlife Management, Mweka, Tanzania



Mikumi National Park, Morogoro, Tanzania



University of Nairobi, Nairobi, Kenya



University of Burundi, Bujumbura, Burundi



University of Burundi, Bujumbura, Burundi



University of Nairobi, Nairobi, Kenya



University of the Sunshine Coast, Sippy Downs, Australia



Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia



Mbarara University of Science and Technology, Mbarara, Uganda

For more information about the workshop and related activities, please contact the organizers:

This event was funded by the MRI as part of its Call For Synthesis Workshops 2020.  

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