Oppenheimer Programme in African Landscape Systems (OPALS)

Supporting adaptation in agricultural systems

This theme focuses on climate-smart adaptation of rainfed agriculture in African landscapes, working with partners to help upscale sustainable solutions.

Climate change is already affecting rainfed agricultural systems across Africa, directly impacting food production and livelihoods in subsistence production systems as well as exacerbating other forms of degradation like soil erosion.

Adoption of climate-smart and sustainable farming practices can bring multiple benefits to smallholder and subsistence farmers, but the successful uptake and implementation of these adaptations is highly contingent on how well they align with the complex interdependencies of the coupled socioecological systems in which farmers live and work. Social networks and peer relations play a huge role in this, with community engagement and trust key to achieving sustained implementation of new practices, while mobile devices are providing new ways of accessing and sharing information virtually.

The main activity within this theme will be an in-depth research project on the opportunities and barriers to scaling the adoption of sustainable and climate-smart farming practices. This work will be led by a doctoral student using a systems-thinking approach to assess the potential to unlock positive tipping dynamics which can lead to rapid scaling and impacts far exceeding the scale of the original intervention. The student will work closely with our partners at The International Small Group and Tree Planting Programme (TIST) and African Parks (AP).