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Climate-Smart Agriculture

Climate-smart agriculture

Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA) is an approach to help the people who manage agricultural systems respond effectively to climate change.  The CSA approach pursues the triple objectives of sustainably increasing productivity and incomes, adapting to climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions where possible.  This does not imply that every practice applied in every location should produce “triple wins”.  Rather the CSA approach seeks to reduce trade-offs and promote synergies by taking these objectives into consideration to inform decisions from the local to the global scales and over short and long time horizons, to derive locally-acceptable solutions.

The majority of the world’s poor live in rural areas and agriculture is their most important income source. Developing the potential to increase the productivity and incomes from smallholder crop, livestock, fish and forest production systems will be the key to achieving global food security over the next twenty years. Climate change is expected to hit developing countries the hardest. Its effects include higher temperatures, changes in precipitation patterns, rising sea levels and more frequent extreme weather events. All of these pose risks for agriculture, food and water supplies. Resilience is therefore a predominant concern.  Agriculture is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. Mitigation can often be a significant co-benefit of actions to strengthen adaptation and enhance food security, and thus mitigation action compatible with national development priorities for agriculture is an important aspect of CSA. 

The CSA Approach

CSA is not a set of practices that can be universally applied, but rather an approach that involves different elements embedded in local contexts. CSA relates to actions both on-farm and beyond the farm, and incorporates technologies, policies, institutions and investment.  

Different elements of climate-smart agricultural systems include: 

  • Management of farms, crops, livestock, aquaculture and capture fisheries to balance near-term food security and livelihoods needs with priorities for adaptation and mitigation.
  • Ecosystem and landscape management to conserve ecosystem services that are important for food security, agricultural development, adaptation and mitigation.
  • Services for farmers and land managers to enable better management of climate risks/impacts and mitigation actions.
  • Changes in the wider food system including demand-side measures and value chain interventions that enhance the benefits of CSA. 

Actions to implement a CSA approach include:

1. Expanding the evidence base:  

The evidence base is made up of the current and projected effects of climate change in a country, identifying key vulnerabilities in the agricultural sector and for food security, agriculture and the identification of effective adaptation options. It includes estimates of the potential reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (or increased carbon sequestration) generated by adaptation strategies, information on costs and barriers to the adoption of different practices, issues related to the sustainability of production systems and the required policy and institutional responses to overcome them.

2. Supporting enabling policy frameworks:

The approach supports the development of relevant policies, plans, investments and coordination across processes and institutions responsible for agriculture, climate change, food security and land use.

3. Strengthening national and local institutions:

Strong local institutions to empower, enable and motivate farmers are essential. In some cases, efforts also need to be made in building the capacity of national policy makers to participate in international policy fora on climate change and agriculture, and reinforce their engagement with local government authorities.

4. Enhancing financing options:

Innovative financing mechanisms that link and blend climate and agricultural finance and investments from public and private sectors are a key means of implementing CSA. New climate financing instruments such as the Green Climate Fund are currently under development and could be a way of spurring sustainable agricultural development. Strong and all-encompassing Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs) and National Adaptation Plans (NAPs) are key national policy instruments important in creating links to national and international sources of finance. National sector budgets and ODA will continue to be the main sources of funding, climate integration into sector planning and budgeting is therefore a prerequisite for successfully addressing climate change.

5. Implementing practices at field level

Farmers are the primary custodians of knowledge about their environment, agro-ecosystems, crops, livestock, and local climatic patterns. Adapting to CSA must be related to local farmers’ knowledge, requirements and priorities. Local projects and institutions support farmers to identify suitable climate-smart options that can be easily adopted and implemented. This, for example has been done through Farmer Field Schools in the United Republic of Tanzania.