Climate Smart Agriculture Sourcebook


C3 plant species

Plants that produce a three-carbon compound during photosynthesis. These are plants whose carbon fixation metabolic pathway relies on the level of carbon dioxide that is naturally available in the atmosphere. This category includes most crops, including rice, wheat, legumes, potatoes and vegetables.

C4 plant species

Plants that produce a four-carbon compound during photosynthesis. These plants concentrate the carbon dioxide in the air absorbed through their stomata to avoid photorespiration during photosynthesis. This category includes mainly plants of tropical origin, such as maize, sugar cane, millet, sorghum and amaranth.

Capacity Development (CD)

The process whereby individuals, organizations and society as a whole unleash, strengthen, create, adapt and maintain capacity [...] to set and achieve their own development objectives over time (OECD 2006) System-wide capacity development enhances capacities based on joint stakeholder assessments across three interdependent capacity levels: individuals (knowledge, skills and competencies), organizations (performance, cross-sectoral and multi-stakeholder coordination) and the enabling environment (regulatory and policy frameworks, institutional linkages and enhanced political commitment and will).

Cash+ intervention

Integrated intervention which aims at boosting the livelihoods and productive capacities of vulnerable households through the provision of a flexible combination of cash transfers with productive activities, inputs, and assets and/or technical training and extension services.


The practice of systematically describing and documenting genotypic and phenotypic characteristics of genetic resources.

Chilling requirement

Amount of cold needed by a plant to resume normal growth following the winter period. It is measured as an accumulation of hours of temperature below a threshold (i.e. chilling hours) that is specific for every cultivar.

Climate-smart agriculture (CSA)

Climate-smart agriculture (CSA) is an approach for developing actions needed to transform and reorient agricultural systems to effectively support sustainable development and ensure food security under climate change.

Communication for Development (ComDev)

Social process based on dialogue using a broad range of tools and methods. Communication for Development is about seeking change at different levels including listening, establishing trust, sharing knowledge and skills, building policies, debating and learning for sustained and meaningful change. World Congress on Communication for Development (Communication Initiative, FAO and World Bank 2006).

Concurrent culture

The simultaneous farming of fish and rice on the same unit of land.


The preferred approach to conserve genetic resources is to combine in situ or on-farm and ex situ conservation measures. By managing organisms in their natural state or within their normal range, in situ conservation maintains both the population and the evolutionary processes that enable the population to adapt while ensuring an ongoing supply of ecosystem services, and allows for the study of the resources in their natural environments; through ex situ conservation, for example in gene banks, the characterization and evaluation of genetic resources could lead to the identification of valuable traits for adapting agriculture to changing climatic conditions and help farmers cope with potential losses (Snook et al., 2011).

Conservation (Ex situ)

The maintenance of genetic material outside of the natural environment where the species/variety/breed  have evolved. This type of conservation maintains the genetic integrity of the material at the time of collecting and is a static form of conservation. Gene banks, botanical gardens, conservation farms, research stations and zoos are typical examples of ex situ conservation facilities (FAO, 2014d; Westengen, Jeppson and Guarino, 2013).

Conservation (In situ)

The Convention on Biological Diversity defines in situ conservation as the maintenance and recovery of viable populations of species in their natural surroundings and, in the case of domesticated or cultivated species on-farm, in the surroundings where they have developed their distinctive properties. This definition encompasses two distinct concepts, namely: i. in situ conservation of wild species in natural habitats and ecosystems; and ii. on-farm conservation of domesticated species in traditional farming systems. However, both concepts are generally referred to as in situ conservation. By managing organisms in their natural state or within their normal range, in situ conservation maintains both the population and the evolutionary processes that enable the population to adapt. In situ conservation of wild relatives is most commonly carried out by protecting the sites where important populations of the target species are present and designating these sites as genetic reserves.

Conservation agriculture

Resource-saving agricultural production system that applies to all land based agricultural production systems. It aims to achieve production intensification while enhancing the natural resource base in compliance with three interrelated principles and good production practices of plant nutrition and pest management. These three principles are: (i) soil mechanical disturbance is reduced to its minimum (no-tillage) continuously over time, (ii) permanent soil organic cover with crop residues and/or cover crops is provided to the extent allowed by water availability, and (iii) varied crops associations and/or rotations suitable to the specific agro-ecosystem are put in place.

Coping capacity

Is the ability of people, organizations and systems, using available skills and resources, to manage adverse conditions, risks or disasters. The capacity to cope requires continuing awareness, resources and good management, both in normal times as well as during disasters or adverse conditions. Coping capacities contribute to the reduction of disaster risks.

Crop duration

Time from germination to maturity.

Crop wild relatives

Wild plant taxa that are phylogenetically closely related to species of direct socioeconomic importance.

Cropping ratio

Number of harvests per year.

Cross breeding

Animal obtained from the mating of parents from two different breeds.