Climate adapted crops: the challenges of scaling technologies with stochastic benefits

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    Independent Advisory and Evaluation Service
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  • Climate change will bring about more stochastic weather events.
  • There are useful technologies that increase farmer resilience to such weather shocks.
  • Technologies that protect against stochastic shocks face unique adoption challenges.
  • Bundling different types of technologies can resolve some of these challenges.

Climate change is likely to hit smallholder farmers particularly hard as they tend to be especially vulnerable to extreme weather events. In this context, stress tolerant crop varieties may be potent innovations to increase resilience among smallholder farmers. Paradoxically, the same features that make such crops so promising raise distinct adoption and scaling challenges.

From the smallholder farmer perspective, the decision to invest in stress tolerant crops is complicated. The genetic composition of the seed is not a visible feature that can be assessed beforehand, and it will only demonstrate benefits compared to other seeds if the stress it was bred to withstand actually occurs. In the case of seeds protecting against specific random weather conditions (e.g., drought), it may be several seasons before the farmer has the chance to see the technology “in action”. Farmers who adopt one season may choose to disadopt the next if the target shock doesn’t occur and the stochastic benefits are not revealed to the farmer.

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