Key Messages 
  • The information surrounding farmers’ approaches to climate change adaptation is not yet well understood, and adaptation options at the farm level may not reach socially optimal levels because of various market failures.
  • A survey of Greek farmers is presented which examines perceived risks and attitudes towards climate change, preparedness and capacity to adapt and future actions.
  • The survey explored the social value of crop insurance as a hedging mechanism towards climate change damages by asking respondents’ willingness-to-pay (WTP) for a gain in the level of security against extreme weather events.
  • Only 40% of the respondents were willing to contribute financially in order to increase their current levels of security, with farmers willing to pay on average €383 annually in order to increase their existing level of safety to 100%.

Context

There is an increasing interest in understanding the processes that shape farmers’ adaptation to climate change at the national, market and farm level. Insights gained are being used to address a range of questions on the determinants of investment, risk and hedging patterns in the agro-food sector. Results have been reported in a wide range of studies in relation to the ability and preparedness of individual farmers to undertake autonomously climate-induced transformations in their practices (Uddin et al, 2014; Mertz et al, 2009; Wheeler et al, 2013).

Adaptation efforts at the farm level may fall short of the socially optimal level owing to market failures such as externalities, information asymmetry and moral hazards as epitomized in the on-going contrast between ‘dump’ and ‘clairvoyant’ agents (Schneider et al, 2000). Policy interventions are thus needed to align privately profitable actions with socially desirable outcomes (OECD 2015).

To this end, extensive empirical research in farmers’ perceptions towards climate risk and adaptation choices is still needed in order to identify a set of guiding principles for government intervention.

This Insight presents recent survey on the potential and constraints of farm-level climate change adaptation in the Greek farming system. In addition it provides values for their willingness-to-pay for increasing their security against climate change related risks.

Policy and methodological developments 

Methodology

A quantitative household survey was designed to gather data on, inter alia, perceived risks and attitudes towards climate change, preparedness and capacity to adapt and future actions. It includes a characterization of adaptation options as well as a wide range of other socioeconomic data that might influence decision-making processes and hence confound possible correlations between actual and intended practices.

Stakeholders related to science and administrative entities were approached to consult on the appropriateness of the survey mode, timing and organization. A structured questionnaire was then designed and pretested with a limited number of stakeholders, and two trained interviewers administered the face-to-face interviews. The sample included farmers from four regions with an important farming activity: Peloponnese, where mostly wine growers were interviewed, Western Greece, Thessaly and Central Macedonia where a mixture of arable crops is cultivated. A total of 70 usable responses were elicited.

Data collected were analysed using a multitude of analytical approaches. First, descriptive statistics present central tendencies and averages. A self-reported psychometric test was used in order to measure individual risk aversion. Cultural theory was applied as a way of coming to grips with the disputes that characterize the socio-cultural underpinnings of risk attitudes. Cultural theory seeks to contribute to the understanding of public attitudes towards risk by anchoring individual perceptions in alternative ways of organizing and perceiving social relations (Jones, 2011; Marris et al., 1998) Finally, logistic regressions are applied to isolate factors influencing individual behaviour (Below et al., 2012; Shiferaw et al., 2009).

Results

Striking statistics were observed related to farmers’ readiness to adapt. Only a tiny percentage (4.3%) of the respondents was prepared to address the occurrence of extreme weather events. What is even worst, only 28.3% of the participants would be prepared to address similar risks in the future,

Nevertheless, nearly 90% of the respondents are willing to undertake some of the proposed adaptation options. The most appropriate practices include measures for efficient irrigation, changes in farming practices, intensified use of fertilizers and pesticides and substituting the current type of crops with a different variety exhibiting greater durability vis-à-vis heat waves.

Respondents were then asked about public and private initiatives that would foster a mentality of preparedness among farmers. Respondents stated a number of relevant state interventions: provision of technical assistance and support, adoption of new policies in climate risk insurance, mobilization of public funds for climate-proofing existing infrastructure, subsidies or financial grants for agricultural practices beneficial for the climate and the environment.

Considering the allocation of responsibility for the adoption of the appropriate measures, half of the respondents highlighted the high responsibility of the central, regional and local governments to undertake the necessary measures, which can alleviate the impact of extreme weather events. The participants also identified their own responsibility pinpointing the significant role of the owner of damaged assets to adapt, while stating that the EU could facilitate the implementation of actions for the reduction of impacts.

Finally, the survey explored the social value of crop insurance as a hedging mechanism towards climate change damages. This was achieved by asking respondents’ willingness-to-pay (WTP) for a gain in the level of security against extreme weather events. The valuation question asks individual farmers the maximum amount they are willing to pay in order to improve their risk exposure from existing (subjective) levels (on average 23 on a scale 0-100) to a 100% (subjectively assessed) safe level.

According to the results, 40% of the respondents were willing to contribute a positive amount of money in order to increase their current levels of security. The rest of the sample was unwilling to pay. The implementation of the linear regression model leads to an estimated amount of WTP equal to €383 per household annually.

Main implications and recommendations 

The survey provided valuable insights in understanding farmers’ approach to adaptation to climate change. Only a small fraction of respondents practice adaptation already. While there is a low inclination in tackling climate risks, there is more willingness to implement some adaptation measures, possibly because of their related co-benefits. Adaptation is regarded as a state concern encompassing central, regional and local governments. However, farmers also recognised their own role in increasing the existing level of safety, as expressed by a positive willingness-to-pay for crop insurance.

Bibliography 

Below, T.B., Mutabazi, K.D., Kirschke, D., Franke, C., Sieber, C., Siebert, R., Tscherning, K. (2012), Can farmers’ adaptation to climate change be explained by socio-economic household-level variables? Global Environmental Change 22: 223–235

Jones, M.D. (2011), Leading the Way to Compromise? Cultural Theory and Climate Change Opinion. Political Science and Politics 44: 720-725.

Marris, C., Langford, I.H., O’ Riordan, T. (1998), A Quantitative Test of the Cultural Theory of Risk Perceptions: Comparison with the Psychometric Paradigm. Risk Analysis, Val. 18, No. 5, 1998.

Mertz, O., Mbow, C., Reenberg, A., Diouf, A. (2009), Farmers’ Perceptions of Climate Change and Agricultural Adaptation Strategies in Rural Sahel. Environmental Management 43:804–816.

OECD (2015), The role of public policies in promoting adaptation in agriculture. Joint Working Party on Agriculture and the Environment - COM/TAD/CA/ENV/EPOC(2014)13/FINAL. Paris.

Schneider, S.H., Easteling, W.E., Mearns,  L.O. (2000), Adaptation: Sensitivity to natural variability, agent assumptions and dynamic climate change. Climatic Change 45: 203-221.

Shiferaw, B.A., Okello, J., Reddy, R.V. (2009), Adoption and adaptation of natural resource management innovations in smallholder agriculture: reflections on key lessons and best practices. Environ Dev Sustain 11: 601–619.

Uddin, M.N., Bokelmann, W., Entsminger, J.S. (2014), Factors Affecting Farmers’ Adaptation Strategies to Environmental Degradation and Climate Change Effects: A Farm Level Study in Bangladesh. Climate 2: 223-241.  

Wheeler, S., Zuo, A., Bjornlund, H. (2013), Farmers’ climate change beliefs and adaptation strategies for a water scarce future in Australia. Global Environmental Change 23 (2013) 537–547.