||Maize is an important food security crop in the dry savanna zones of Nigeria. However, recurring droughts pose a continuous challenge to its production. In an attempt to address the drought problem on maize, a formal household survey of resource-poor farmers, targeted at major maize producing areas that are routinely affected by drought risk, was conducted in the 2005–2006 production period. The major objective of the household survey was to collect baseline data on farm households to construct indicators to be used in measuring changes in the adoption of improved drought tolerant maize varieties and the impact on adopting households in the selected locations. The household survey was conducted in Rano district in Kano State and Malumfashi district in Katsina State, Nigeria. These areas are notable for maize production and represent the zone where the probability of drought risk is about 20–40%. Ten maize producing communities were selected in each of the districts, and between 15 and 22 households were randomly selected in each community. A total of 175 household heads were selected in each district for the study. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics, principal component analysis for wealth ranking as a basic approach to categorizing rural households, and Tobit regression technique to determine the probability of adoption of improved maize and the extent of the use of the technology by adopting households. Household livelihoods were centered on the availability of land for food crop production, as well as on livestock production and marketing. Major crops grown included cereals, mainly local maize, Hybrid maize, sorghum, and groundnut were also grown, with local, improved, and hybrid maize varieties constituting the first crops. Maize production was male dominated, although with an ageing population as a result of the reduced entry of younger farmers into the farming business. This reduction was due to out-migration by the youths to urban centers for better job opportunities, while those remaining engaged in the transport business (motor cycle riding), which was believed to be lucrative. This has led to the scarcity and high costs of farm labor. Though farm sizes were generally small, men had larger maize farms in the current season than women. Focus group discussions and key informants attributed this to the sociocultural background of the people, who considered farming the exclusive preserve of men, with access to farm productive resources limited to them. Assets owned by households largely determined their wealth status and ability to take the risks associated with the adoption of innovations for their farm production activities. Assets which had a great impact on households included total farm size, total household size, the ownership of cultivable farm land, radios, the possession of motor cycles, television sets, mobile phones, draft animals, bicycles, wheelbarrows, and private wells, and the receipt of remittances, Households also owned local cows, bulls, heifers, calves, goats, pigs, sheep, and chickens. The numbers and types of livestock owned were important measures of household wealth. Based on the varying levels of different assets owned, the distribution of households within wealth categories showed that majority of the maize producers were poorly endowed, with about 62% categorized as worse-off. Access to credit facilities was limited, but a few benefited from programs from both governmental and non-governmental organizations such as Sasakawa Global 2000, Government Starter Pack Program and the Agricultural Development Projects. The package of benefits included seeds, fertilizer, food relief, and livestock breeding stock. Drought was the most important shock that affected maize farms and hence household livelihoods. It was one of the major reasons why households sought an alternative means of livelihood. Local landraces, improved and hybrid maize, sorghum, and rice were ranked in that order as important crops that suffered most from drought stress. Three key livelihood strategies were usually employed by households: increasing agricultural production, and reducing risks to income and to health. To reduce food security risks, households stored food grain for longer periods, grew crops with differing maturity periods, replaced cash crops with food crops, increased the use of inputs for a higher yield, and engaged in dry season farming. The period from June through August was noted for food shortages during the year. The most risky crops in terms of yield fluctuations were sorghum, hybrid maize, local landrace maize, cotton, improved open-pollinated varieties, groundnut, rice, onion, millet, pepper, cowpea, soybean, and beans, while cassava, sweetpotato, and teff were the least risky. The approach used in reducing agricultural production risks included crop diversification, early planting, intensifying labor and input use, accumulating production assets, using hybrid seeds, undertaking income generating off-farm activities, learning better practices of input use, and selling livestock. Risks associated with education were addressed by attending adult literacy classes and enrolling more children in formal and informal schools. Four main price risk coping strategies were adopted by households according to wealth groups. These were asset accumulation, participation in NGO and Government programs, forward contracting, and informal insurance. Households that were worse-off or just evolving in the well-off category predominantly adopted asset accumulation and participation in NGO and Government programs as price risk coping strategies. Forward contracting and informal insurance were the preferred price risk coping strategies of wealthier households. In forward contracting, the farmers made advance contracts with the buyer of their products and the sellers of their inputs. For informal insurance, they collected information about market prices to predict future price trends.These were considered ways of maintaining wealth classes between the well endowed and the poorly endowed in the area. Wealthier households, however, tended to divert from agriculture to other economic activities as a means of livelihood. About 68% of the sampled households were adopters of improved maize while 32% were non-adopters. Farm size, extension contact, distance to market, perception of yield potential, seed availability, and wealth index were the major factors that influenced the probability of adoption of improved maize varieties. Membership of associations was the only additional variable that significantly influenced the use of improved maize after adoption. The findings have economic implications for development programs aimed at promoting and targeting new technologies to specific wealth categories for the improved livelihood of the farming households.