||This study examines the vulnerability to climate variability and change of the conventional maize value chain in the mid and low altitude agroecological zones of Malawi, agroecological zone II of Zambia and agroecological zone III of Zimbabwe. The aim is to develop feasible priorities and strategies for climate variability and change adaptation based on farmer preference. A literature review for the countries Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe was conducted to assess the current and future impact of climate change and variability on the smallholder farming system. A mix of methods, which included participatory vulnerability assessment tools, focus group discussions and key informant interviews among 108 farmers from five communities, complemented the literature review. Data were collected on the current and likely future impacts and sensitivity of the systems and adaptation capacities. The vulnerability assessment identified heat waves, erratic onset of the season, early cessation of the season, flash floods and cyclones, in season dry spells and droughts as the most common climate hazards in the last 28 years in both mid and low altitude agroecological regions of Malawi, agro ecological zone II of Zambia, and agroecological zone III of Zimbabwe. The trend analysis further revealed that 9 years out of 28 were considered as droughts out of which more than 50% were severe. The new millennium marks the beginning of unpredictable onset of the rain season in 3 of the surveyed communities. Farmers from the 5 communities concurred that interaction of these climate shocks with nonclimate shocks such as HIV/AIDS and macroeconomic turbulence intensified the effects. Since 2000, regularly occurring droughts that now take place every two to three years in the drought prone districts such as southern parts of Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe have significantly compromised maize production in the three countries resulting in food deficits ranging from 13 to 60%. The worst drought in 35 years that occurred in the 2015/16 season in the three countries resulted in maize deficit of up to 40% in southern parts Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe, 25% in central Malawi and eastern Zambia. The production trends were also closely correlated with maize grain prices. In the lean period of 2016, maize grain price increased by 50% and 100% in Malawi and Zimbabwe respectively. A range of climate smart agricultural practices such as conservation agriculture (CA), intercropping and other forms of crop diversification, mulching, drought tolerant maize varieties and compost manure emerged as the common most effective adaptation strategies in the target communities. In some few areas, agroforestry was also mentioned. The results show that, high population densities, high poverty levels, limited economic offfarm activities and high reliance on maize value chain as the main source of income characterize the most vulnerable communities. They also rely on the usual traditional negative coping mechanisms such as charcoal making, prostitution of girls, casual labour and migration to address interannual climate shocks. These results demonstrate that households with high sensitivity to climate risks as surveyed in the three countries are likely to invest in riskreduction strategies, utilizing whatever options are available to them. For development practitioners and policy makers, it will be critical in future years to assist smallholder farmers in identifying scalable and the most feasible options to address future climate risk impacts.