Climate Smart Agriculture Sourcebook

Supporting rural producers with knowledge of CSA

Enabling Frameworks

Enhancing RAS capacities to promote climate-smart agriculture

RAS are well placed to support farmers with new knowledge that can achieve the three objectives of climate-smart agriculture. However, their capacities to do so vary widely. Limited knowledge on how to capture the synergies and manage the trade-offs among these three objectives; and the absence of a landscape approach to achieve the multiple objectives of climate-smart agriculture have constrained RAS in their ability to fully support farmers in this area. 

In many developing countries, RAS have little involvement in climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts. Few national RAS providers have initiated specific programmes in this area. While the promotion of technology and the dissemination of information are traditional RAS activities, RAS providers face challenges in determining what types of adaptive changes farmers need to make and when to make them; and ensuring that relevant technologies and modes of dissemination keep up with the constant need to adjust to changing climate conditions (Simpson and Burpee, 2014). 

RAS can play a strong role in promoting climate-smart agriculture, if there is an enabling environment and their capacities are strengthened in the following areas:

The capacity to conduct local climate change impact and vulnerability assessments 

RAS should have the capacity and the appropriate tools to identify, evaluate and propose the adaptation options that are best suited to local conditions, based on an assessment of vulnerability to climate change and its impact on different groups. Climate change affects people differently. Its impacts will depend on gender, education, health and age, and on the adaptive capacity of communities. Some of the most vulnerable groups are the poor and smallholder farmers living in coastal areas and those who practice rainfed agriculture. RAS should be aware of how climate change affects these different client groups and what options are available for lowering their exposure to hazards, reducing their sensitivity to impacts and increasing their adaptive capacity. RAS also need more reliable and locally relevant climate projections. 

Greater respect for indigenous and local knowledge

Indigenous knowledge is a valuable for finding local solutions to the challenges posed by climate change (see module C1). Farmers, forest-dependent people and fisherfolk often possess traditional and locally specific knowledge on a range of key subjects, such as locally adapted crops livestock and fish, integrated production systems, soil and water management methods, and the collection and management of neglected and underutilized species. RAS providers should be able to tap into this valuable knowledge as an entry point for developing well researched and locally adapted approaches for climate change adaptation (see also chapter B1-4). The importance of indigenous knowledge has been incorporated into the design and implementation of some RAS projects. However, little attention has been paid to integrating this knowledge into formal climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies (Nyong et al., 2007)

Stronger engagement with research

The linkages between research and extension services continue to remain problematic in most developing countries, despite the fact that this has been an important area of reform in the agriculture sectors. Researchers need to build closer connections with RAS to incorporate into local knowledge, gain a clear understanding of farmers’ needs and problems, and obtain feedback on how technological interventions related to climate-smart agriculture are working. RAS need to establish stronger connections with researchers, as most of the technological options promoted under climate-smart agriculture are more knowledge-intensive and locally specific than traditional approaches for agricultural development. RAS also require more technical backstopping to promote climate-smart agriculture (see chapter B1-4). There is a need to “reorient the institutional capacity of RAS to better align with the change in research focus towards climate-smart agriculture and sustainable practices” (CAPSA-ESCAP, 2014, p.3).

Ability to organize a wider search for solutions

In addition to collaborating with researchers to identify locally appropriate climate-smart agriculture practices, RAS personnel can benefit from learning about effective climate-smart agriculture practices from other regions facing similar challenges. RAS need mechanisms for learning from a range of practitioners. This will include includes systems for sharing knowledge and more effective virtual and face-to-face networking with practitioners in many locations. RAS providers need to have the ability to experiment and integrate newly gained knowledge in their activities to support rural communities in adopting climate-smart agriculture.

Capacities to expand the focus of RAS from households and farmer fields to the entire landscape

The promotion of climate-smart agriculture often requires collective action among farmers and collaboration among different stakeholders in the agricultural landscape. Climate-smart agriculture options related to adaptation and mitigation at the landscape level need to build consensus among the varied stakeholders (e.g. different ministries and departments; different communities and livelihood groups) and sometimes manage conflicts among them. Multistakeholder consultations and negotiations are needed to improve local governance, jointly prioritize options and make decisions on land use and access to and management of natural resources. These are important areas where RAS personnel need capacity development at different levels. Integrated landscape management is addressed in module A3.

Stronger set of functional capacities 

Promoting climate-smart agriculture at the ground level involves enhancing farmers’ decision-making and problem-solving capacities. RAS personnel working in the field should have sufficient 'soft' capacities related to communication, facilitation, conflict management and negotiation. They should also be able to combine technical and institutional innovations to promote climate-smart agriculture options. The Farmer Field Schools approach provides an example of this. Skills related to policy engagement is also an important area of capacity development that has been identified for RAS (GFRAS, 2012; GFRAS, 2013; Sulaiman and Mittal, 2016). 

GFRAS has been supporting new learning materials to enhance these core competencies for individual RAS providers. These approaches need to be widely promoted to influence reforms in the curricula of educational and training organizations that deal with RAS. There are currently limited capacities among RAS that would enable them to shift from their role of trainer to that of a facilitator capable of brokering connections between farmers and different sources of knowledge and service providers. This should be an important area for capacity development of RAS. 

Recognizing the importance of strengthening capacities in the area of climate change among RAS providers, many organizations have published training manuals in the area of climate change adaptation and mitigation (FAO, 2015; Simpson, 2016; Campbell et al, 2013; Solar 2014; GIZ, 2015; CCAFS, 2016b). 

In a changing environment, developing new capacities and strengthening existing ones is critical for RAS to reinvent its role and embrace effective strategies that support of climate-smart agriculture. The GFRAS has articulated the capacities that for RAS need to develop at the individual, organizational and enabling environment levels (FAO, 2012; GFRAS, 2012.). 

Capacities for promoting climate-smart agriculture at different levels, based on the GFRAS framework, are described below.

Individual level

Technical capacities, including knowledge related to: 

  • climate change and its direct and indirect effect on the agriculture sectors and specific farming systems;
  • climate-smart agriculture principles and the synergies and potential trade-offs between adaptation, mitigation and food security;
  • the identification of climate change risks and assessing vulnerability;
  • access to and use of agrometeorological data to improve resilience and sustainability of farming systems;
  • technologies and practices appropriate for promotion of climate-smart agriculture;
  • climate change adaptation options in agriculture, including technological, institutional and policy options;
  • climate change mitigation options in agriculture, including the monitoring and assessment of greenhouse gas emissions;
  • different mechanisms for risk management, including crop, animal and weather insurance; and
  • different extension tools and approaches to promote climate-smart agriculture

Functional capacities, including knowledge and expertise related to: 

  • participatory climate change adaptation planning;
  • community mobilization and the development of farmer organizations for promoting climate-smart agriculture; supporting producers and rural women to organize into different types of interest and activity groups; and sustaining and federating farmer organisations;
  • facilitation to encourage discussions, mediate conflicts, build consensus and foster joint action in multistakeholder processes;
  • negotiation to help reach a satisfactory compromises or agreements between individuals or groups, and increase the negotiating capacities among other stakeholders;
  • ways of brokering and creating 'many-to-many' relationships among the wide range of stakeholders:
  • networking and partnership development, including in areas where work is done in multi-organizational and multisectoral teams.

Organizational level

Enhancing the capacities of RAS to promote climate-smart agriculture also involves developing capacities at the organizational level. Adaptation to climate change in agriculture often requires more and better coordination among a wide range of stakeholders at a range of levels, and RAS need to establish a culture of networking and partnership development to ensure coordinated action. Adaptation does not occur in an institutional vacuum (Agarwal, 2008). Circumstances at many different levels, within households, throughout the wider communities and within governments, affect the choices made by individual farmers (Ojha et al, 2014). Experiences from CVS reveal the need for continuous experimentation and learning to promote climate-smart agriculture options. It is not merely farmers who need capacities to adapt to climate change. Other groups who are actively supporting farmers to adapt to climate change should have the capacities to anticipate changes, promote planned adaptation interventions and continuously learn from these interventions. In this regard, some of the organizational capacities that are needed for RAS relate to:

  • the capacity to anticipate and respond to emergencies and organize support and services;
  • enhanced financial resources and adequate human resources to effectively promote climate-smart agriculture;
  • systems for human resource development, which includes training infrastructure, appropriate curricula and well-trained faculty:
  • information and communications technology and knowledge management infrastructure to enhance the flow of information among different stakeholders;
  • strategic policy advocacy to forcefully articulate the impact of climate change on agriculture and the need for RAS to promote climate-smart agriculture; and
  • rules, norms and values that encourage collaboration among people working in different areas (e.g. research, agrometeorological services, seed systems and the agricultural value chain), and promote sharing, interacting and collective learning in the joint pursuit of climate-smart solutions.

Enabling Environment

The enabling environment refers to the framework conditions that facilitate and support organizations to play their roles effectively. An enabling environment may provide the laws, regulations and incentives that shape an organization’s mandate; the roles it plays; and the ways it operates. In the context of RAS, the enabling environment includes policies, institutional arrangements, stakeholder involvement, infrastructure and access to knowledge and support from a wide range of other organizations that are critical for the effective functioning of RAS, especially in promoting climate-smart agriculture.

At the national level, the need to address climate change must be recognized by and addressed through policy instruments, such as National Adaptation Plans, and financial mechanisms that provide access to climate funds to implement adaptation and mitigation policies. The importance of adapting the agricultural sectors to climate change; how they could contribute to mitigation; and how RAS could support these activities, all need to be articulated in policy instruments, such as National Adaptation Plans and Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions. The success of these kinds of frameworks relies heavily on stakeholders’ commitment to commonly defined objectives, and their willingness to collaborate, both financially and in terms of their political institutions (Box C2.8). 

Box C2.8  Climate-smart agriculture Prioritization Framework in Guatemala 

In 2014, the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food (MAGA) of Guatemala worked closely with the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and CCAFS to look for opportunities for making climate-smart agriculture investments in Guatemala’s dry corridor region. The Climate-Smart Agriculture Prioritization Framework (CSA-PF) initiative sought to identify and prioritize climate-smart agriculture practices that contribute to enhancing the food security and livelihoods of vulnerable farmers in the region. 

The CSA-PF facilitated the creation of a decision-making forum for stakeholders to narrow down a long list of climate-smart agriculture options into portfolios for promotion and scaling up. The prioritization process was organized into four main phases between 2014 and 2015:

  1. A team of experts from MAGA’s Climate Change Unit, the main facilitators of the process, defined the objectives and the scope of the prioritization activities and developed an extensive list that covered potentially vulnerable regions, production systems and related climate-smart agriculture practices. External experts evaluated the impacts of these practices using indicators for adaptation, mitigation and productivity, and identified the practices expected to deliver the highest aggregate amount of benefits for reaching the objectives of climate-smart agriculture. 
  2. The stakeholders, which included government decision-makers, academics, donors and producer organizations, were brought together in a participatory workshop where they discussed and validated the expert assessment to ensure usability and consistency with stakeholders’ agendas. This process succeeded in finalizing a short list of climate-smart agriculture practices that were relevant for small-scale maize and beans farmers in the dry corridor region. 
  3. The costs and benefits of these short-listed practices were calculated using a combination of economic analysis, expert interviews, literature reviews and household surveys. 
  4. The results of the cost-benefit analysis were brought back to the stakeholders for discussion and validation and to decide on the next steps to be taken. Using multiple sets of results from the different phases, which considered the different dimensions of climate-smart agriculture (adaptation, productivity, mitigation) from different perspectives (social, economic, environmental, policy and institutional), stakeholders grouped the practices into portfolios that would be consistent with their investment priorities in the area. Through this process, a climate-smart agriculture investment portfolio was developed.

Political will was particularly important for legitimizing the process. It also created a favourable environment in which the potential of the climate-smart agriculture portfolios to influence national policies and strategies could be effectively tapped. However, without further commitment of the stakeholders, who were the direct and indirect users of the results, to remain engaged in the process, either through planning policies and strategies or through financing climate-smart agriculture investments, the implementation of these prioritized interventions may be at risk.

Source: Nowak et al., 2016.

Expanding the practices from climate-smart agriculture pilot projects to a wider scale requires both higher levels of political commitment and enhanced capacity for policy learning. Some of the specific characteristics of the enabling environment that facilitate promotion of climate-smart agriculture are:

  • political commitment to agricultural development and the promotion of macro-economic policies that provide incentives to climate-smart agriculture;
  • the capacity of policy-making bodies to adapt policies based on lessons learned from climate-smart agriculture interventions;
  • the capacity and willingness of other stakeholders to share data, resources and good practices, and engage in collaborative action with RAS;
  • mechanisms that facilitate collaboration and joint action among the range of stakeholders; and
  • mechanisms that ensure farmers have equitable access to a variety of inputs, including access to subsidies and financial support.