Assessing and building climate change resilience in smallholder farm systems: A newly developed resilience assessment scorecard


NIRAS UK maintains a strong relationship with the University of Edinburgh and provides postgraduate students with opportunities to utilise data from our projects, or conduct their own field-based research, as part of their MSc dissertations each year.

As part of her MSc in Environmental Sustainability at the University of Edinburgh, Bantu Mabaso collaborated with NIRAS UK to explore possible solutions on monitoring and evaluating climate resilience in smallholder farm systems more effectively. Using data collected through a household survey for the impact evaluation of the UK FCDO-funded Building Resilience and Adapting to Climate Change (BRACC) programme in Malawi, Bantu designed a Farm Resilience Assessment Scorecard. In this blog, she talks about the benefits of such a tool and its implications for strengthening climate resilience among smallholders.

November 10, 2022

Bantu Mabaso


The vulnerability of smallholder farmers to climate change is expected to increase as global temperatures escalate. Building farmers’ capacity for climate resilience will become increasingly important as close to 30% of global food production depends on smallholder farmers being able to maintain their livelihoods.

My MSc Dissertation project conducted in collaboration with NIRAS titled “Assessing and Building Climate Resilience in Smallholder Farm Systems” explored how climate resilience can be measured effectively in smallholder farms to understand the following:

  • The extent to which interventions aimed at strengthening climate resilience are making a positive impact
  • How to amplify impact

The dissertation adds value to the literature exploring the monitoring and evaluation of programs in the context of climate change and agricultural development.

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Find Bantu's Farm Resilience Assessment Scorecard and scoring guidance here

Find Bantu's MSc Environmental Sustainability Dissertation here. Please  bear in mind that the ideas in the dissertation are not yet fully refined. If you wish to reach Bantu to gain more insights or discuss further research, contact the NIRAS employee in the link. 

As part of my dissertation, I developed a Farm Assessment Resilience Scorecard that can be used by practitioners as well as farmers to quantify climate resilience in smallholder farms.

The Scorecard offers the following benefits:

  • It simplifies the assessment of climate resilience as anyone can easily collect data using the Scorecard – with this tool monitoring and evaluation does not require a specialist, even a farmer can be empowered to complete an assessment.
  • It focuses on a few key indicators that can be frequently monitored – the assessment process can be easily replicated within a short period of time without having to go through the inconvenience of using long paper based surveys.
  • Because the Scorecard allows for the frequent monitoring of selected indicators overtime, this means that identifying crucial points where interventions that can help increase resilience are necessary can occur much quicker than is possible at the moment with currently available tools.
  • Constant collection of data using such a tool can also allow for longitudinal studies of farm trajectories which can yield better results for our understanding of climate resilience over time.

Implications for strengthening climate resilience for smallholders

The Farm Resilience Assessment Scorecard can be important in helping development practitioners understand how farm systems cope with climate variability over time. Once we can understand how a farm is coping upon assessing it, we can also be able to identify areas where we can intervene to create the most impact and design our resilience strengthening programs accordingly. 

In addition, it is very important for farmers to be able to understand and measure climate impact in their communities. Having access to this knowledge will enable them to advocate for support and is a crucial component in achieving climate justice. An exciting potential innovation would be to create a mobile app version of the scorecard which could be used by farmers to collect data on their farms and report it back to the government. This information could then be used to inform policies and programs to strengthen resilience in response to the data collected.

Matthew McConnachie

Matthew McConnachie

Principal Consultant

Edinburgh, United Kingdom

+44 (0)131 440 5500