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Enhancing capacities for a country-owned transition towards CSA

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Climate-smart transformation of food and agricultural systems is a knowledge-intensive and innovative process. It is also a multi-sector, multi-actor and multi-level process that addresses complexities across biophysical, technical and socio-economic levels. How will this gradual and complex transformation be achieved? Who will own and drive this transition process at country level?

How can the transformation become country-owned, sustainable, scaled up and scaled out? What are the national and subnational capacities across people, organizations, institutions, networks and policies that need to be enhanced and how will countries be supported in this process?

This module sets the frame for Section C on “Enabling Environments” calling for a paradigm shift in the “business as usual” practice of capacity development applied to climate-smart agriculture (CSA) to address these questions. The module proposes a system-wide, integrated and inclusive capacity development approach rooted in national empowerment that interdependently enables people, strengthens organizations, institutions and networks while fostering conducive policy and regulatory frameworks.

Highly interactive, inclusive and gender-sensitive, the proposed process aligns with country development priorities and deepens country ownership, commitment and mutual accountability. All critical ingredients to achieve the desired transformation towards CSA sustainably and at scale. 

Moreover, practical capacity development methodologies, tools and practices as well as catalytic factors for CSA are explored. These include  multi-stakeholder processes and networks, agricultural innovation systems, local institutions at the landscape level, farmer and climate field schools, indigenous knowledge and knowledge sharing, and Information and Communication Technologies and Communication for Development.

Finally, the module provides practical “how to” guidance for countries to apply a facilitated capacity development approach. Illustrated with case studies, methods and tools, the module recommends a three-step, interactive and inclusive process. The process addresses all three interdepended capacity development dimensions (individual, organizational and enabling environment). The steps to be conducted jointly with stakeholders are: 1) assess system-wide capacities; 2) design contextualized and targeted capacity development interventions; and 3) identify, monitor and document progress and results.

The module suggests to apply a system-wide capacity development approach to CSA that will enable countries to sustainably scale up their endogenous climate action in the agricultural sectors. Thus, planning, implementation, monitoring and reporting on CSA interventions will be most transformational, sustainable and reach scale when conducted through the proposed inclusive and interactive capacity development process. Such a process addresses all the three capacity development dimensions interdependently, while fostering country ownership, commitment and mutual accountability.

Key messages

  • CSA is highly knowledge-intensive, innovative, multi-sector, multi-actor and multi-dimensional by nature. Countries are encouraged to enhance system-wide capacities to achieve a sustainable and transformational transition towards CSA at scale. This is achieved through an integrated and inclusive capacity development approach that interdependently empowers people, strengthens organizations and institutions and nurtures a conducive and enabling policy environment while fostering country ownership, commitment and mutual accountability. 
  • A new “paradigm shift” for system-wide capacity development practice is proposed to achieve more transformative and sustainable change at scale. Going beyond “business as usual” individual capacity building,  system-wide capacity development enhances capacities across three interdependent capacity development dimensions based on assessed needs: Individuals (knowledge, skills, competencies); organizations, institutions and networks (performance, mandates and procedures, cross-sectoral, horizontal, vertical and multi-stakeholder coordination and networks); and the enabling environment (regulatory and policy frameworks, institutional linkages and political commitment and will). 
  • Practical “how to” steps to guide country stakeholders on implementing a system-wide capacity development approach include: Jointly with stakeholders (a) assessing system-wide capacities; (b) designing contextualized and targeted capacity development interventions; and (c) monitoring and documenting progress. The process needs to be participatory, inclusive and interactive to enable countries to fully understand the benefits of adopting climate-smart approaches, to reduce rights inequalities and to create a space for dialogue, negotiation and consensus-building.
  • Capacities of the enabling environment for CSA are strengthened by addressing policy coherence and mainstreaming CSA approaches into national policies and programmes, linking scientific assessment to more effective decision-making, and conducting participatory governance assessments to promote more responsible governance of natural resources. 
  • Strengthening organizational, institutional and network capacities for CSA includes synchronizing mandates, enhancing horizontal and vertical coordination within and among sectors, stakeholders, organizations, institutions while supporting networks. Organizational and institutional enhancement at the landscape level deserves particular attention. Strengthening local institutions at the landscape level is key entry point to foster coordination, collaboration, ownership and commitment for joint CSA action. Strengthening, establishing and facilitating multi-stakeholder, multi-actor processes and platforms through a neutral, trusted convenor and partnership broker creates important spaces for inclusive and gender-sensitive dialogue. These are key ingredients for an inclusive CSA strategy development, implementation and monitoring.  
  • Ongoing skills development for CSA through continuous engagement of national and local, formal and informal education, training institutions and tertiary educational institutions will be important due to the uncertain and dynamic nature of climate change impacts
  • Farmer Field Schools (FFS)/Climate Field Schools (CFS) are a particularly relevant capacity enhancement modality for CSA to consider. FFS/CFS present an innovative, participatory and interactive learning approach that emphasizes problem solving and discovery-based learning, as well as empowerment.  
  • Strengthening agricultural innovation systems as integrated networks of stakeholders comprising of research, extension, producers, agribusinesses and others is an essential catalytic factor for adopting CSA approaches. Such systems generate, document, blend, share and apply indigenous and scientific knowledge and practices, while facilitating joint learning and collaboration. 
  • Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) and participatory Communication for Development approaches are catalytic factors for adopting CSA approaches at scale. They improve access to information, knowledge and practices, facilitate dialogue between stakeholders, enhance the voice in decision-making processes, trigger learning across levels, and provide knowledge networks and platforms where diverse actors can connect, interact, share and act.