Factors affecting farmers’ transition to climate-smart agriculture

The first 10 months of the BEATLES project were dedicated to a series of research tasks aiming to provide an integrated framework of the climate-smart agriculture (CSA) landscape. Particular focus was put on individual, systemic and policy factors that influence the transition of agri-food stakeholders to climate-smart agriculture (CSA).

A combination of systematic reviews, surveys, and interviews were used to map and analyse the full range of decision-making factors influencing the transition of agri-food systems to CSA. The results provide useful information for policy makers, farmers, agri-food stakeholders and researchers for facilitating the transition to CSA practices.

The main outcomes include a) an integrated framework of the CSA landscape, which provides information on the decision-making factors that influence farmers’ behavioural changes to CSA, b) the business strategies that influence the transition to CSA, d) consumer purchases of environmentally friendly products, e) current CSA practices and technologies used by farmers, and f) the policy and regulatory framework affecting the transition to CSA.

In particular, the main results of the systematic review of the factors affecting farmers’ transition to climate-smart agriculture (CSA) and the corresponding recommendations are briefly presented below.

Socio-demographic factors

Socio-demographic factors such as age, low income, low farming experience and part-time occupation in farming act as barriers for farmers’ adoption of CSA practices and technologies while gender and household size do not play a role.

Psychological factors  

Farmers who are unaware of the environmental impact of agriculture, are motivated by economic gains, are resistant to change and risk averse are less likely to adopt CSA. Conversely, farmers who have the skills and capacity in farming, hold positive attitudes towards climate change and CSA practices and are more innovative and environmentally conscious are more likely to change towards CSA.

Farm characteristics

Increased farm and arable size, increased yield and farm profitability, farm ownership, and the availability of succession in the farm enable the adoption of CSA practices and technologies while labour availability does not play a role.  Farm characteristics significantly influence farmers in their decision to adopt CSA.

CSA practice or technology characteristics

The characteristics of the CSA practice or technology affect farmers adoption rates. Perceived usefulness and ease of use of these practices or technologies, compatibility with current farming operations and goals, the perceived costs and benefits associated with their adoption, and trustworthiness of the technologies are all drivers of adoption.

Systemic factors

Social norms embedded in a farming community, peer-to-peer learning and social networking are important factors affecting transition to CSA. Membership in a cooperative as well as the availability of extension and advisory services provide major information sources for the farmers, which influence their decisions towards CSA.

Other systemic enablers of transition to CSA include:

  • Increased availability of research and education
  • Farmers’ easy access to the markets of inputs and products.
  • Alternative channels to sell farm produce directly to customers.
  • Market demand for environmentally friendly products and increased consumer willingness to pay a premium.
  • Easy access to credit to meet farmers’ needs for financial resources.
  • Certification schemes that certify products produced under CSA practices and enable higher prices.


Policies and strategies should:

  • Provide incentives and attract young people to work in agriculture as they are usually more open to innovative practices.
  • Provide more governmental financial support to disadvantaged farmers with low income to aid them in the transition to CSA.
  • Offer a combination of voluntary schemes for the more environmentally conscious farmers and mandatory schemes for the more risk averse farmers.
  • Design communication campaigns to raise farmers’ awareness about the negative environmental impact of agriculture and the benefits of the transition to CSA.
  • Adapt current practices and technologies to be easier to use, less complex and more compatible with current farming operations, different geographical locations and farming systems.
  • Design CSA solutions that are cost and risk effective and have clear environmental and social benefits, minimizing losses to the environment and also increasing economic benefits for farmers.
  • Further strengthen the role of advisors to become the main point of contact for providing reliable, practical and scientifically founded advice to farmers’ daily problems on the field.
  • Provide opportunities for field visits and farm demonstrations as a tool for effective peer-to-peer learning and learning-by-doing.
  • Increase the availability of capacity building activities, through farmer networks, farmer associations, NGOs and formal education programmes.