Ecosystem-based Adaptation by small holders in Roslagen, Sweden

ES Jensen
Published: 27 October 2017
Last edited: 14 November 2017
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An informal network of small holder farmers cultivate high quality organic products in an area of mixed agriculture and forestry in Sweden. Cold winters, recurring dry spells and diseases affect their agricultural production. Ecosystem-based measures are used by these farmers to adaptively respond to climate variability and change to reduce crop damage and failure. Ecological information is transmitted through the network ensuring a reservoir of old and new knowledge for farming practices that enhances their resilience.


North Europe
Scale of implementation
Species management
Hazards addressed
Erratic rainfall
Increasing temperatures
Shift of seasons
Sustainable development goals
SDG 13 – Climate action
SDG 15 – Life on land
Aichi targets
Target 7: Sustainable agriculture, aquaculture and forestry
Target 11: Protected areas
Target 13: Safeguarding genetic diversity
Target 14: Ecosystem services
Target 15: Ecosystem restoration and resilience
Target 18: Traditional knowledge


Roslagen, Sweden


Sustaining food production in uncertain climatic conditions and disturbances such as droughts, pests and diseases.


An informal network of smallholder farmers in Roslagen, Sweden.

How do the building blocks interact?

Management of multiple species (cultivated or wild) within an agroecosystem (Building block 1) buffers climate variability impact on crops while keeping the ecosystem functioning. Natural indicators (building block 2) are used for building block 1. Managing the environment to mitigate disturbances due to climate variability and change (building 3) underpins everything. Finally the transmission of knowledge throughout a local network (building block 4) provides a reservoir of adaptation possibilities that enhance resilience of the farmers and their ecosystem.


By diversifying and adjusting ecosystem management practices, farmers can increase their resilience to climate variability and change, while also enhancing local and regional biodiversity. Moreover, by drawing on traditional knowledge and new research and through experimentation with this knowledge, farmers increase their capacity to adapt to changing conditions.


Small holder farmers in Roslagen, in east-central Sweden, have short cropping seasons, which along with cold winters, relatively poor and stony soils and recurrent local dry spells in early spring affect crop production success. Crop diseases are a particular problem, which are magnified during mild winters, something that occurs more often due to climate change. The farmers form a local informal network that work together and exchange information on knowledge and management practices. Their main crops are wheat, barley, oats, potatoes and vegetables. They also have livestock. It is a low-input agriculture producing high-quality products.

The farmers have developed a range of ecosystem-based practices that help manage change and adapt to uncertain conditions and disturbances. They maximize ecosystem services such as flood and groundwater regulation through the protection of trees in forests and wetlands; moisture conservation through using plants as shade and early spring harrowing to prevent capillary rise and evaporation; and pollination and pest control through the protection of key species. Furthermore, they use polyculture and pay attention to ecological indicators to inform their management. Polyculture ensures against crop failure in uncertain conditions and reduces damage from pests and diseases.


Farmers experiment with new and traditional practices to adapt to climate change and exchange knowledge through their network, which enables adaptations to be undertaken to increase crop success.


Having management practices that work with ecosystem processes, that promote biodiversity, and that can be adapted to local ecosystem dynamics based on an ever evolving body of knowledge (through farmer experience and research) increases the resilience of these small holder farmers to climate variability and change.


The EbA practices and information network in Roslagen evolved in an organic way from the grass roots level and was studied and reported only because the farmers in Roslagen had heard of a previous study looking at local management practices to deal with climate change and variability in Tanzania, which reflected their own management practices. This shows how cross exchange of practices can spark others to share their own results and create dialogue.

Contributed by

Maria Tengö


Stockholm Resilience Centre