FAO Regional Office for Africa

FAO initiative reveals robust evidence on drivers of CSA adoption

….builds synergies among food security, adaptation, and mitigation

Promotion of intercropping as a Climate Smart Agriculture technology. Photo credit: FAO/Samson Kankhande

6 February 2015, Lilongwe Malawi - A Climate Smart Agriculture project in Malawi has generated strong evidence on the determinants of adoption of agricultural practices contributing to adaptation to climatic changes such as legume intercropping, minimum soil disturbance, soil and water conservation, tree planting, use of organic and inorganic fertilizers as well as improved seeds, says the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

At a knowledge dissemination workshop for the CSA project in Lilongwe, Malawi on Thursday this week, FAO shared evidenced-based results of its three-year project being implemented in the country, with partners appreciating the significant role CSA plays in building synergies among mitigation, adaption and food security.

Thanks to the European Commission, FAO and the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development have since 2012 been implementing a CSA project in Malawi. It focuses on three main outcomes namely, sustainably increasing agricultural productivity and incomes; adapting and building resilience to climate change; and where possible reducing or removing greenhouse gases emissions relative to conventional practices.

The project has four outputs: establishing an evidence base on CSA practices and policies; formulation of country owned CSA strategies; development of CSA investment proposals and identification of possible climate financing; and building capacity across these areas.

Apart from Malawi, the project is also being implemented in Zambia and Vietnam.

Evidence base of agricultural practices

In order to increase the knowledge available on CSA in Malawi, the project has built an evidence base which looks at a broad spectrum of practices and changes in agricultural systems central to provide adaptation to climate change and mitigation co-benefits.

This knowledge-building process encompassed an analysis of tradeoffs and synergies between adaptation, mitigation and food security as well as identification of barriers to adoption as opposed to enabling factors and the most suitable risk management strategies.

The project has brought together information on recent changes in climate patterns in Malawi; CSA practices adoption patterns, cost-benefit considerations; and livelihood diversification and potential risk management strategies in an effort to improve Malawi’s economic development in rural areas.

FAO Team Leader for CSA project, Mr Andrea Cattaneo, said the primary aim of the project was to understand the underlying reasons for adopting or not adopting agricultural technologies and address the identified challenges.

“It’s important to differentiate interventions depending on which agro-ecological zone farmers are in. We cannot have one solution fits all to addressing climatic change”, he said.

Citing accomplishments of the project, Mr Cattaneo mentioned the strengthening of capacity in climate change management through support towards Masters and PhD students at the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

“We have been happy to work in Malawi because we have good collaboration with various institutions including the Government and we hope this is the beginning of a long process to support agricultural development in Malawi especially on issues to do with agricultural development under climate change,” he said.

Director of Land Resources and Conservation in the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, Mr John Mussa, acknowledged the important and central role the project has played in soil conservation and climate change adaptation in Malawi.

“Malawi is affected by severe climatic changes and this project has helped promote minimal soil tillage and adaptation to climatic shocks,” said Mr Mussa.

Due to severe climatic change, Malawi has been hit by floods ravaging 15 districts, prompting the President to declare a state of disaster. More than 200 people have been displaced with more than 79 people confirmed dead and 153 people missing in Nsanje alone. In addition, an estimated 116, 000 households have lost their crops and livestock with most hard-hit districts being Chikwawa, Nsanje and Phalombe which calls for a strong recovery programme.

Emerging evidence from Malawi

A brief of the project prepared by FAO economist Mr Solomon Asfaw, outlining emerging evidence on Malawi, says  evidence shows that adopting a specific agricultural practice is conditioned by whether another practice has been adopted which support the notion of interdependency between adoption decision of different agricultural practices.

“Based on the evidence that climatic condition plays an important role in farmers’ adoption decisions, it is natural to conclude that improving the access to reliable climate forecast information is key to facilitating adaptation,” observes Mr Asfaw.

In Malawi, results further show that the adoption decisions of different farm practices are quite distinct and to a large extent the factors governing the adoption decision of each of the agricultural practices are also different.

“The results suggest the heterogeneity in adoption of agricultural practices and accordingly, the unsuitability of aggregating them into one adaptation/risk-mitigating variable,” says Mr Asfaw.

In addition, results also outline the importance of land tenure security which increases the likelihood that farmers adopt strategies that capture the returns from their investments in the long run and reduces the demand for short-term inputs like inorganic fertilizer and improved seed. Access to extension advice and collective action have also been fingered as pivotal to adoption levels of various agricultural practices.

The evidence collected during the last three years highlights the importance of adoption of CSA practices and livelihood diversification in improving incomes of farmers under climate uncertainty and reducing their vulnerability to poverty.

Mike Chipalasa | Communications Officer | FAO Malawi | Email: [email protected]