How rural land use management facilitates drought risk adaptation in a changing climate – A case study in arid northern China

Lei, Y. D. et al. | Science of the Total Environment | 2016 | Peer Reviewed | Original research |


Under a warming climate, frequent drought and water scarcity in northern China have severely disrupted agricultural production and posed a substantial threat to farmers’ livelihoods. Based on first-hand data collected through in-depth interviews with local managers and farmer households, this study evaluated the effectiveness of rural land use management in mitigating drought risk, ensuring food security and improving farmers’ livelihoods. Our findings indicate that a) reforestation on low-yield cropland not only can improve the ecoenvironment but can also prominently mitigate the production risk to local farmers; b) replacing the traditional border irrigation with sprinkler irrigation has substantially curbed agricultural water usage and increased the per unit of output; and c) in recent years, instead of planting water-intensive grain crops, local farmers cultivated more forage crops to raise animals, which greatly diversified their income sources and reduced the drought risk of agricultural production. By performing an empirical case study in drought-prone Inner Mongolia, this study provides decision-makers with insights into how to strategically adapt to drought risk and reduce rural poverty within the broader context of climate change.