Apollinaire William, Ph.D., is a 2018 graduate of the Ph.D. Program in Environmental Studies at Antioch University, New England

Dissertation Committee:

  • Beth Kaplin, Ph.D., Committee Chair
  • James Gruber, Ph.D., Committee Member
  • Joel Hartter, Ph.D., Committee Member


Smallholder farmer, perceptions, climate change adaptation, environmental change, agroforestry, riparian buffer, crop intensification, ecosystem services, soil erosion, water quality, extension services, Upper Mukungwa Watershed, Rwanda

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Climate change and crop intensification are key challenges to the livelihoods and wellbeing of the majority of rural smallholder farmers in developing countries, particularly in human-dominated, climate-sensitive landscapes such as the northern highlands of Rwanda where issues of fluvial floods, soil erosion pose serious threats to the livelihoods of smallholder farmers. In this mixed methods study conducted between August and December 2015, I explored smallholder farmers’ perceptions by examining what barriers might hinder the process of agroforestry adoption by smallholder farmers, what socio-economic and physical factors and attitudes influence crop choices, motivations for smallholder farmers’ willingness to plant trees within riparian buffer zones and opportunities and challenges to the establishment of riparian buffer zones that maintain ecosystem services. Results indicate that challenges to adoption of agroforestry to support climate change adaptation and food security in Rwanda are related to land scarcity, poverty, limited technological and financial capacity among most smallholder farmers, limited engagement of smallholder farmers in agroforestry research and an inclination for short term benefits that could hinder adoption of agroforestry which has a long term investment. Most smallholder farmers believed that the onset of short rains comes earlier in recent years compared to more than ten years ago. In response, most farmers reported that they plant crops earlier in the season. Results from rainfall analysis, although not conclusive, show a shift in rainy day frequency. Respondents who strongly agreed that soil erosion within farms proximal to streams is a serious threat were more likely to support the idea that establishing a riparian buffer would help entrap sediments and mitigate soil erosion within farmlands adjacent to streams. However, farmers reported that establishing a functional riparian buffer requires engagement with extension services, financial incentives and technological assistance. Perceptions of costs and benefits of riparian zone management was found to be the most important factors influencing farmers’ intentions to manage riparian zones. Engagement of smallholder farmers in the agrarian policy development process and their active participation in the implementation of adaptation strategies may be needed in order to provide an opportunity for farmers to learn technologies involved and assess costs and benefits of the practices. This would also insure that smallholder farmers’ goals and interests are met.


Apollinaire William

ORCID Scholar ID# 0000-0003-1282-8262