Climate Smart Agriculture Sourcebook

The theory of change for CSA: a guide to evidence-based national implementation

Enabling Frameworks

Capacity development and partnership building

As illustrated in the theory of change presented in Figure C10.1, the activities listed in the preceding steps all aim to achieve the outcomes that underpin the practice change component of the FAO approach to sustainable food and agriculture. Capacity development and partnership building is one of the key threads that runs through all of these activities. System-wide capacity development is addressed in detail in module C.1. This section highlights some of the key capacities that need to be enhanced to sustain practice change and integrate climate-smart agriculture into policies that extend beyond specific projects and programmes.

i. Capacity development in information management

Given the dynamic nature of the challenges posed by climate change to all agricultural sectors, countries need to strengthen their capacities to continuously update the information available on climate change and identify options to decrease vulnerabilities. Because the technology for data collection, (both on climate and production), modelling and dissemination is improving at a rapid pace, a dynamic approach must be taken to capacity development. It is no longer a lack of data, but a lack of capacities to process data that creates bottlenecks in carrying out timely downscaled analyses for identifying the most pressing risks and vulnerabilities associated with climate change and recommending actionable responses. Countries need to invest in capacity development in this area and integrate capacity-development activities into their regular agricultural development planning to maintain the practice change needed for climate-smart agriculture. This includes strengthening capacities at national meteorological institutions, universities and research institutions.   

One area where capacity development is required is in the use of weather station information to assess current and future climate impacts and vulnerabilities in the agricultural sectors. The FAO integrated interdisciplinary tool, Modelling System for Agricultural Impacts of Climate Change (MOSAICC), puts a strong focus on capacity development (see Box C10.2).

Box C10.2   Modelling System for Agricultural Impacts of Climate Change (MOSAICC)

There is a need to strengthen the evidence base about current and future climate impacts and vulnerabilities in the agriculture sectors at different spatial and temporal scales. A broader evidence base is a crucial component in efforts to support climate-smart agriculture projects and programmes. The existing scientific information does not always match the needs of policies or projects in terms of scale and focus. Due to insufficient technical capacities in many countries, analyses in this area are often conducted by international experts rather than local researchers. In many cases, these analyses are carried out with only minimal engagement of local stakeholders (e.g. national research institutes and universities). To fill these information and capacity gaps, FAO developed an integrated interdisciplinary tool, Modelling System for Agricultural Impacts of Climate Change (MOSAICC), which has been applied in several countries. 

FAO emphasizes a country-driven process for implementing MOSAICC. The creation of an interdisciplinary technical working group is one of the first steps in this process. This working group is typically composed of representatives from government ministries, national research institutes and universities. Its main members group are experts who are responsible for running simulations using each of MOSAICC's components. The group also includes policy makers as the primary the stakeholders. As members of the working group, the policy makers help guide the climate change study from study design to the communication of the results. Other government technical offices can provide necessary data and expertise. This institutional framework ensures that the information produced by the technical working group using MOSAICC is a useful output for stakeholders rather than a purely academic exercise. The users of MOSAICC can perform the simulations at different time scales and spatial scales (e.g. subregional to national level) based on the needs and interests of stakeholders. 

Capacity development is an important focus of the MOSAICC implementation strategy. Climate change adaptation planning is a long and iterative process that should be periodically reviewed as new scientific evidence and the outcomes from adaptation interventions become available. The enhanced capacities of national experts to carry out scientific work that broadens evidence base about the impacts of climate change and adaptation are vital to a sustainable policy planning process. FAO provides extensive training programmes to local experts on the use of each component of MOSAICC. At least one week of training per component is usually provided. In each country, FAO has facilitated collaboration among different ministries and institutions to make interdisciplinary studies possible. In successful collaborations, the software design of MOSAICC becomes catalytic. The sustainability of strengthened technical capacities of individual experts is ensured by the commitment of all stakeholders represented in the interdisciplinary technical working group. The trainers, who are the original developers of MOSAICC models, continue to provide technical support to make sure the experts can accomplish simulation studies even after the training. In the end, country experts become proficient enough to design the study, perform simulations using their country's own data, and publish the results to inform policy stakeholders to support national planning.

Source: Authors

ii. Capacity development in research

Building the evidence base required for scaling up climate-smart agriculture is a very demanding ongoing process. A large set of stakeholders across multiple disciplines (e.g. agro-meteorology, biophysical sciences, agronomy, economics, social sciences, political science) need to have the capacities to sustain this process. Each step of the process requires strong partnerships to make sure that a scientifically sound climate-smart agriculture approach is continuously applied through established feedback loops between science and policy. 

Building strong monitoring and evaluation components into climate-smart agriculture projects are addressed in module C.10. Countries also need to invest in regular impact evaluations of the most important national policies that have the potential to contribute to climate-smart agriculture objectives. Continuous updating of the evidence base would ensure that changing vulnerabilities are identified and addressed on time. One way to achieve this would be strengthening the capacities of the central statistical offices, which would improve the data in nationally representative surveys for agricultural sectors (e.g. agricultural census, living standards measurement survey, national census). These surveys should be updated to include modules that can provide a better understanding of climate change adaptation and mitigation implications of the data and, where required, expanded to include the whole food system (McCarthy, 2011). Investing in initiatives to create strong monitoring and evaluation components in the private sector and farmers' organizations, and connecting them to national information centres for use and dissemination are also activities that will support capacity development.

National capacities to analyse this type of data can be enhanced by including courses on climate change and agriculture into the curricula of higher education institutions. Building partnerships with international organizations engaged in scientific and policy research is also critical. A good example of this was the approach taken by FAO-EPIC in Malawi, Viet Nam and Zambia. Between 2012 and 2015, this project supported Masters and PhD students from different disciplines in their research on local climate-smart agriculture options. In some cases, students participated in international exchange programmes to improve their technical backgrounds. All of the alumni of this project have remained in their countries where they continue to work (mostly in ministries of agriculture) on issues related to climate change and agriculture and contribute to the implementation of climate-smart agriculture.

iii. Capacity development in stakeholder processes

To make sure that the strategic climate-smart agriculture frameworks are living documents and kept up to date as new scientific evidence and international policy directions become available, the multi-stakeholder climate-smart agriculture core groups that are established in each country need to make sure that their members are continuously engaged in national, regional and international dialogues. Examples of opportunities for participating in international discussions include UNFCCC negotiations; discussion forums on Sustainable Development Goal indicators and monitoring; meetings organized by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to disseminate their findings; events organized by regional partnerships on  climate-smart agriculture commitments, such as the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) Vision 25x25 initiative; and meetings of global, regional and national climate-smart agriculture alliance networks. Organizing periodic national meetings to disseminate the results of these discussions to national and subnational policy makers, research organizations, farmers groups and private sector representatives would also ensure that climate-smart agriculture has broad long-term support in the country.

iv. Capacity development in evidence-based decision-making

Having national capacities in place for evidence-based decision-making is one of the key elements for supporting climate-smart agriculture. In the theory of change developed in this module, these capacities are essential for creating the necessary continuous feedback loops between science and policy. The main funding sources for climate-smart agriculture (e.g. GCF, GEF) require rigorous monitoring and evaluation systems, and robust evidence that can demonstrate that investments are delivering what they promise. For this reason, the processes to prepare proposals and implement these projects can be a catalyst for this type of culture change. A mechanism should be established that allows for coordination among national focal institutions responsible for preparing climate-smart agriculture proposals for funding, so that they have the opportunities to share evidence and expertise that can help in the preparation and delivery of outputs. This will also contribute to developing capacities for evidence-based decision-making over the long-term.