This paper presents the results of a baseline study carried out to understand farmers’ perceptions about the existence of salinity in their farmlands and its impact on agricultural production and household food security. The strategies adopted by farmers to deal with the salinity and food insecurity problems are also discussed. The survey data were collected from a total of 300 farmers from five districts of Ethiopia. Farmers were selected using a random sampling from a household list. Focus Group Discussions were conducted with farmers in each district to investigate their perceptions of the soil salinity, its impacts and their adaptive strategies. Data were collected using a semi-structured questionnaire and analyzed using SPSS descriptive statistics and chi-square test. Farmers’ responses showed that they were concerned about increasing soil salinity problems and its impact on their crop productivity and well-being. The results show that observing white crust and dark brown color of the soil are the major indicators used by farmers to identify salinity on their fields. Poor irrigation and drainage management problems are perceived as the main causes for salinity development. Salinity directly effects crop productivity and household incomes, which leads to food insecurity. The crop production losses due to soil salinity ranged from 10 to 70%. Performing off-farm jobs, selling household assets and joining food aid programs are the common coping strategies adopted by farmers. Farmers’ perceptions on salinity should be used as an entry point by different stakeholders to develop strategies for the salt-affected areas.
Key words: Soil salinity, food security, crop productivity, coping strategies, rural poverty.
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