JOURNAL OF CLEANER PRODUCTION - Building smallholder-adapted climate-resilient systems: Evidence from China's apple farms

January 5, 2024 - Zhiping Duan, Jinghan Li, Fan Li, Jiping Ding, Yuanmao Jiang, <>, Weifeng Zhang


Climate change affects crop production globally, and cash crops are particularly vulnerable, which may threaten human livelihoods. However, limited attention has been paid to building climate-resilient systems, especially for smallholders producing cash crops such as apples, which account for 13% of the global fruit consumption. In this study, we developed a smallholder-adapted climate-resilient system (SA-CRS) conceptual framework and applied this in an empirical assessment of the adaptation of smallholder apple farmers (SAFs) to the risk of low temperature during flowering (LTF) in China. The results show that average daily minimum temperatures have decreased by 1.77 °C, and the LTF hazard probability has increased by 6.1% from 1999 to 2018. Approximately 96.4% of the SAFs in the study regions reported LTF impacts in 2018, and 29.8% experienced apple yield losses averaging 16.43 t/ha. Notably, most SAFs in the Loess Plateau region with poor SA-CRS reported apple yield reduction. Such adverse effects lowered economic returns and further prevented SAFs from adopting adaptive measures, resulting in a vicious circle. By contrast, an effective SA-CRS in the Bohai Bay region has greatly reduced the risks, and a positive economic return further incentivizes the adoption of further adaptive measures, creating a virtuous circle. Our study showed that to achieve an effective SA-CRS, a market-oriented nexus approach is required that integrates an institutional price-enhancing mechanism (contributing 84% to smallholder decision-making), an organizational production-support system, and a public extension system tailored to the needs of SAFs.


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