Climate shocks, vulnerability, resilience and livelihoods in rural Zambia

To what extent do the behavioral choices of Zambian smallholder farmers influence the negative effects of climate shocks, and what impact do these choices have on vulnerability and resilience? This paper uses nationally representative, three-wave household-level panel data to investigate these questions. The empirical estimation employs an instrumental variable probit regression model, which also controls for the endogeneity of key choice variables. There are four main empirical findings. First, droughts are the most prevalent climate shock rural smallholder farmers in Zambia face, but the extent of exposure differs spatially, with the Southern and Western Provinces being the hardest hit. Nationally, about three-quarters of all smallholder farmers are vulnerable and only about one-quarter are resilient. Second, increased climate shocks correlate with both increased vulnerability and reduced resilience, with short- and long-term deviations in seasonal rainfall worsening vulnerability and resilience. Third, higher asset endowments and education level of the household head reduce vulnerability and increase resilience among smallholder farmers. Female-headed households are more vulnerable and less resilient, on average. Fourth, the use of climate-smart agricultural practices—namely, minimum tillage and use of inorganic fertilizers or hybrid maize seed—significantly improves household resilience in the short term.