Farmers in China spending $280 billion adapting to climate change and nature loss

Farmers in China are spending up to 80% of their income on long-term sustainability of farming.

Press release, 07 December 2022

A nationwide survey of smallholder farmers in China suggests they’re spending US$280 billion every year on measures to adapt to climate change including through conserving or restoring biodiversity according to the Farmers’ Seed Network, the non-profit Foodthink organisation and IIED.

The survey of 200 farmers found that on average, each farming household was investing between 20% and 40% of its annual income in trialling and implementing ecological farming practices to adapt to climate change. Farmers in remote locations or those who were particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change were spending between 60% and 80% of their income in this way.

Smallholder farmers were spending more than $2,900 per hectare every year responding to climate change through working with nature. With 200 million smallholder famers in China, they were collectively investing more than $280 billion annually in climate change adaptation, dwarfing the $950m pledged for adaptation at the recent COP27 climate negotiations.

World leaders are gathering again this week, this time to discuss nature and agree a new global biodiversity framework (GBF), at the COP15 negotiations in Montreal.

Xin Song, a youth leader from the Farmers’ Seed Network, said: “Despite pledges and promises by rich countries garnering the headlines, it is individuals who are putting up the money it takes to change farming practices not only to adapt to climate change but also to halt and reverse the loss of crucial plants, animals and the traditional biocultural systems that sustain them.” 

Xiaoting Hou-Jones, a senior researcher at IIED, said: “Efforts like these, carried out by people at the local level, are undermined by unfavourable public policies and powerful market forces that seek to maximise profits from agriculture at the expense of nature. World leaders negotiating the new GBF need to strengthen their commitments to support local innovators and community-based organisations that bring farmers together to lead the fight against hunger, nature loss and climate change.”

Farmers across China are vulnerable to extreme weather events, like drought and flooding, unpredictable weather patterns and pests. Foodthink, a non-profit organisation that spreads knowledge about sustainable food systems in China, conducted field visits, interviews and discussions with farmers across China in 2022 and found diversifying their crops and adopting ecological farming practices like encouraging more natural vegetation, were among farmers’ key strategies to adapt to these challenges.  

Diversifying the crops and livestock on a farm reduces risk. Ecological practices reduce the chances of pest outbreaks and improve soil quality to better regulate moisture levels during drought or flooding.

Notes to editors

The Farmers’ Seed Network will present more information on the outcomes of the survey at a COP15 side event on 9 December

For more information or to request an interview, contact Sarah Grainger: +44 7503 643332 or