One billion vulnerable subsistence farmers across the global south depend on risky livelihoods in need of adaptation to climate change impacts. Simultaneously, their aggregated emission of greenhouse gases from land use and fuelwood consumption is substantial. Synergies between adaptation to climate change and mitigation should therefore be actively promoted. In the context of poverty, such synergies should ideally be designed specifically for the poorest of the poor who are notoriously difficult to reach by policies and projects. In this experimental case on subsistence farming in western Kenya we assume that only the poorest inhabit the most degraded lands and use the simplest form of cooking over open fire. As the study location is typical of sub-Saharan areas affected by drought, flooding, land degradation, diseases and persistent poverty, findings can be scaled up, transferred to and tested in similar settings. Seeking multiple synergies of adaptation, mitigation, and social change while using sustainability science in intervention research, we reframed peasant farmers from vulnerable victims into agents fighting livelihood stressors and climate change impacts. In collaboration with them we performed small-scale experiments on agricultural production practices and domestic energy efficiency resulting in multiple synergies. Findings show that the ‘smokeless kitchen’ and carbon sequestration from improved land management can mitigate climate change while increasing energy efficiency, health standards, food security, and community-based adaptive capacity. Preferably, climate policy should therefore explicitly address synergies and support peasant farmers' efforts to create synergies when the ‘food imperative’ limits their agency to fight climate change alone. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
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