Climate Smart Agriculture Sourcebook

Integrated production systems

Production and Resources

Creating an enabling environment and removing barriers to adoption of climate-smart integrated production systems

B5 - 3.1 Barriers to adoption

A combination of factors can create barriers to the implementation and wider uptake of integrated production systems. 

  • Technical knowledge 
  • Integrated production systems are very knowledge-intensive. Information and access to technical support (e.g. extension services) is essential, but not always available. Because of the limited experience and capacities among some national extension services, the potential for local farmers to implement agroforestry is far from being fully exploited. 
  • Poor access to markets, insurance and credit 
  • Limited access to markets and sources of financing undermines the economic viability of integrated production systems for small-scale producers. For example, in countries where aquaculture is not an important industry, fingerlings, which are a vital input in rice-fish farming, are scarce and expensive. Small-scale dairy producers also have major problems with maintaining milk hygiene during the cooling and collection process when trying to gain access to markets (see Case Study B2.4 on solar milk cooling).
  • Implementation costs 
  • Incentives favouring specialized production systems, such as subsidized inputs, and the absence of financial incentives for integrated systems make the upfront costs of switching to an integrated production systems less attractive for producers. For example, in agroforestry systems, the break-even point on initial investment may occur only after a number of years. Farmers may be discouraged by the initial net losses they may sustain before benefitting from their investment. Similarly, the purchase of new equipment for converting agricultural by-products to energy is prohibitive for many smallholders. This, together with the higher workload associated with integrated food-energy systems, limits the adoption of these systems by small-scale farmers. An important exception in this regard, are some national biogas programmes in Asia.
  • Lack of coordination among sectors and producers 
  • In many countries, integrated systems fall between the agriculture, environment and forestry departments, with no institution taking a lead role in the advancement of the system or its integration in national and local policies. The only country that has adopted a national agroforestry policy is India (Government of India, 2014).
  • Insecure tenure 
  • In the case of agroforestry or integrated crop-livestock systems, without formal land title and ownership of trees, smallholder farmers will not investments in trees or land, which pay off only in the long term.

B5 - 3.2 Creating an enabling environment for adoption

Instead of considering the barriers presented in chapter B5-4.1 as deterrents to the adoption of integrated production systems, they should be regarded as opportunities that can be exploited to help farmers, especially smallholders, use integrated systems to adapt to climate change and mitigate it. This chapter explains the ways in which an enabling environment can be fostered.

  • Supporting research on impact modelling at relevant scales, particularly at the local and household levels, to allow for making appropriate decisions and ensuring an adequate understanding of the interactions between productive components
    Robust biophysical models that represent the interactions between the different productive components of integrated systems are needed to evaluate and target appropriate technological options that help farmers raise incomes, enhance food security and sustain their natural resource base; and inform policy debates on the needed policies in relation to the climate change adaptation options and mitigation potential in the different ecoregions and for each integrated production system (Thornton and Herrero, 2015). 
    Adapting different technologies and management practices for each integrated system and its local biophysical and socio-economic context. Evaluating and targeting options that have the potential to meet different stakeholders’ objectives is important to expand the evidence base, determine which practices and extension methods are suitable in each context, and identify the synergies and trade-offs between the various components of integrated systems. Capacity building with increased knowledge and improved management techniques will be critically important. Particular focus will need to be placed on all farming household members, men, women and children, as well as extension agents. Difficulties in accessing specialized sustainable small equipment mechanization tend to make these such systems labour-intensive. With appropriate capacity development strategies this barrier to the adoption of integrated systems can be transformed in an opportunity to create jobs attractive for young people (see also module C7 on decent rural employment). The Farmer or Pastoralist Field Schools, for example, follow a discovery-based learning approach where small groups of farmers or pastoralists meet regularly. The meetings, which are facilitated by a specially trained technician, provide a setting where producers can explore new methods, through simple experimentation and group discussion and analysis, over the course of a growing season. This approach allows farmers to modify and adapt newly introduced methods to local contexts and knowledge, which increased the likelihood of their uptake. 
    The methods and approaches to support farmers with knowledge of climate-smart agriculture practices and specialized extension for different agricultural sectors are addressed in module C2
  • Strengthening institutions
    Local institutions can have an important role in changing the way farmers manage their production systems and helping them cope with climate change (McCarthy et al., 2011; Hansen et al., 2011). 
    Beyond short-term training for agricultural extension officers, agricultural schools and universities should mainstream integrated agricultural production into their curricula. For example, efforts to promote a wider adoption of rice-fish farming should aim at developing suitable curricula for fish as pest control agents. As governments often promote integrated pest management, the culture of fish in rice fields should be promoted as part of these methods (Kamp and Gregory, 1994; Kenmore and Halwart, 1998). In the case of simple integrated food-energy systems (e.g household biogas), support services are sometimes provided through the companies or organizations that collect the feedstock (e.g. manure) from farmers and supply the biogas and biofertilizer. Tenant farming and sharecropping, whereby smallholders farm the land belonging to companies, is another type of agribusiness-smallholder partnership, which often includes provision of technical services and inputs to the farmer.
    Enhanced capacity development for country-driven climate-smart agriculture is comprehensively dealt with in module C1. Generating and disseminating appropriate information (e.g. weather forecasts, extension materials and new information technologies) can build the evidence base for determining what works in which circumstances and why, and increase the ability of farmers to reduce their exposure to weather events or climate risks. Appropriate measures for evaluating the success of adaptation interventions are very much needed to guide adaptation planning and investment, and identify when the adaptation of farming system is not sufficient and more transformational approaches are needed. Vulnerability and adaptive capacity cannot be directly observed, hence the dependence on sets of indicators. Module C9 presents the criteria to define appropriate metrics for increasing programming effectiveness and outcome tracking of climate-smart agriculture interventions.
  • Coordinated and informed policies are important mechanisms to mainstream the management of natural resources (communal or private) into climate adaptation and mitigation planning. 
    A secure framework for tenure rights (see module B7) is essential to promote long-term investments, in integrated productions systems, such as agroforestry. As discussed in module C6, translating policies into tangible benefits on the ground requires that access to resources be equally available to both men and women producers, and governments will need to pay attention to gender issues when promoting integrated production systems (Carney and Elias, 2016; Haverhals et al., 2016; Catacutan and Naz, 2015; Wafula et al., 2016 ). Examples of gender implications in the introduction of climate-smart agriculture approaches are provided in Box C6.2.
    Ensuring secure and long-term land and tree tenure  rights to farmers who invest in their farm (e.g. plant trees, raise dikes and excavate ponds or trench refuges for fish, purchase the equipment for energy conversion or for no-till) is essential to promote investments in climate-smart agriculture; enable smallholders accessing to subsidies, loans and micro credit; and provide incentives to its adoption through payments for environmental services (FAO, 2012d). Selling carbon credits could achieve multiple benefits: mitigating the impact of climate change; providing another source of income for farmers; and offering an incentive for the further diversification agricultural activities. Policy analysis has shown that, for example, in the highlands of Northern Peru at prices of USD 100 per megagram of carbon sequestration in agroforestry systems would have the potential to raise per capita incomes of farmers by up to 15 percent (Antle et al., 2007).
    Positive incentives are particularly important to support systems where the returns on investment may take a number of years to materialize, as with agroforestry and rice-fish systems, or food-energy systems that require special equipment. Incentives may be provided in the form of grants, tax exemptions, cost-sharing programmes, microcredit or delivery in kind. In many countries, there are formal mechanisms to provide credit to small-scale farmers and entrepreneurs in rural areas. Farmer cooperatives can help increase access to micro-credit for small-scale producers where rural banks are reluctant to do so. Additionally, simple integrated food-energy systems, which have a high potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and are relatively easy to monitor, such as those using biogas, are good candidates for carbon finance. Financing may be required for rice-fish systems as well, since the raising of dikes and excavation of ponds or trench refuges may create extra expenses beyond what is normally required for rice farming. Often the amounts involved (USD 500 or less) are small enough to fall within the scope of micro-credit. Even if hundreds of farmers require financing in each locality, the total investment would certainly be within the capability of rural banking facilities. The more critical issue is often to get the financing body to accept rice-fish production systems as a viable venture, as aquaculture had difficulties in being seen as a low risk farming option.
    Other policies specifically relevant to the energy component of integrated food-energy systems are those promoting renewable energy markets through quotas and mandates and/or feed-in tariffs.
    Policy makers need to carefully consider the potential trade-offs between positive incentives aimed at one agricultural sector and the objectives for other sectors. For example, subsidies for fertilizers may create a disincentive for farmers to use manure on crops and improve their management of crop residues. Minimizing these trade-offs will require increased coordination between public institutions. Policy frameworks for climate-smart agriculture are addressed in module C3. Insurance schemes and social protection mechanisms are addressed in module C7.