Combating climate change is one of the critical goals under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agenda. Several targets overlap with climate action, including those involving the need to consider environmental impacts and sustainability outcomes on land and land-based resources, ecosystems and biodiversity as well as agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale farmers. While risk communication has successfully been applied in emergency management, especially the crisis phase, little of the concept has been adapted in natural resource management.
Using the case of smallholder farmer adaptation to climate change, this article explores how risk communication can resolve cognitive failure among multiple actors in climate change action in the context of adaptation, mitigation and sustainable development frameworks. The authors assess how weaknesses in risk communication can be resolved and subsequently harnessed in the development of a ‘software’ for mitigation of maladaptation risks. In doing so, the authors draw on the concept of an integrated structural and participatory model for climate change communication to suggest a robust risk communication approach that can be adopted to promote sustainability in adaptation planning. Following the participatory model for climate change communication, the report posits that the integration of risk communication with communication for development approaches can reduce the risk of maladaptation and contribute to resilience building at the community level.