Climate Smart Agriculture Sourcebook

Water management for Climate-Smart Agriculture

Production and Resources


The major impacts of climate change agriculture and rural livelihoods are expected to result from changes in the water cycle. Rainfall variability and the increase in frequency of extreme weather events, including droughts and floods, combined with an acceleration of the water cycle caused by increased evapotranspiration, will have an impact on every element in agricultural ecosystems: crops, livestock, trees, fish, rural communities and physical infrastructure. For this reason, climate change adaptation strategies in the agriculture sectors must view potential responses through a 'water lens'.

Many of the development activities for improving socio-economic conditions in rural areas will have a positive impact on climate change adaptation as they reduce the vulnerability of local communities to shocks and increase their resilience. However, new programmes must become more strategic. The vulnerability of agricultural communities to climate change must be assessed systematically to avoid maladaptation and increase the robustness of development programmes. In addition, specific climate change adaptation actions will need to be designed and mainstreamed into development programmes. All adaptation initiatives need to engage multiple sectors to be successful. 

Given that most intensive agricultural practices with the potential to mitigate climate change use some form of irrigation, there is scope for mitigation actions that address how water is managed in agriculture.