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Climate Smart Agriculture Sourcebook

Developing Sustainable Food Systems and Value Chains for Climate-Smart Agriculture

Production and Resources

Overview

Efforts to promote sustainable food systems that deliver food and nutrition security for all are needed, in ways that support economic development, positive social outcomes and protect the natural environment. This module takes a holistic view of food systems, using a sustainable food value chain approach to identify areas of intervention to adapt to the impacts of climate change and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, where possible. It considers climate impacts and vulnerabilities at three interlinked levels of the food system: the core value chain; the extended value chain including the support services available; and the enabling environment, including both natural and societal elements.  All activities in the core value chain are addressed, including the production, aggregation, processing, distribution, consumption and disposal of food. Chapter B10.2 defines the concepts of food systems and value chains. Chapter B10.3 describes how developing sustainable food value chains involves the careful analysis and weighting of issues related to the economic, social and environmental dimensions, while  considering trade-offs and tapping into synergies to achieve the most impactful climate-smart agriculture interventions. Chapter B10.4 identifies the key considerations for selecting food value chains that may be the most appropriate for climate-smart agriculture interventions. Chapter B10.5 proposes possible climate-smart agriculture interventions at all levels of the food system. Chapter B10.6 highlights the need for multistakeholder interventions to develop more sustainable, climate-smart food value chains and food systems.

Key messages

  • A food systems approach is needed to design the most effective, proactive and sustainable climate-smart agriculture interventions. This involves an analysis of the food system from farm to fork, including the support services, and the natural and societal elements in the enabling environment in which the food system is embedded.
  • Taking a food systems approach helps identify the root causes of vulnerabilities to climate change impacts and excessive emissions and the leverage points that will have the greatest impact for climate-smart interventions in the food system, which in some cases lie in the extended value chain or in the enabling environment, rather than in the core value chain.
  • Understanding the interactions of the diverse activities and feedback loops in a food system, as well as the incentives and capacities of the stakeholders involved is critical to optimizing sustainability performance for climate-smart agriculture interventions.
  • All environmental, economic and social elements must be carefully considered to minimize trade-offs and harness synergies across food value chains to optimize sustainability for climate-smart agriculture interventions.
  • Reducing the carbon footprint of the different stages of food value chains is one of the key elements for ensuring the environmental sustainability of food systems, which is of paramount importance to climate-smart agriculture.
  • Developing sustainable food systems that are resilient to climate change and have a reduced carbon footprint will require improved governance and specific and coordinated action from all stakeholders in the food system.
  • Governance, which is the vertical coordination of core value chains within food systems, can improve access to technologies, secure financing for climate-smart agriculture interventions and disseminate information about climate-smart agriculture.
  • Food system interventions for climate-smart agriculture interventions may include advocating for changes in policies, investing in infrastructure, inputs and services, providing training on best practices, and encouraging behaviour change of all food system stakeholders.