Climate-Smart Strategies are Within Reach

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KATOWICE, Poland, Dec 12 2018 (IPS) – Until the United Nations climate talks in Bonn last year, no clear plan to include agriculture in climate negotiations existed.

This was troubling, considering agriculture contributes 19-29% of global greenhouse gases, and changing temperatures are making it harder to farm. This is having an increasingly prominent effect on food security — hunger levels have now risen for the third year in a row.

The Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture, which was agreed this time last year, paves the way for two technical bodies to work together to identify solutions on how the agriculture sector can be part of the solution to climate change.

The question is where to begin.

This week at COP 24 in Katowice, Poland, an international team of researchers laid out a climate-friendly blueprint for agriculture’s future.

The International Center for Tropical Agriculture and the World Bank launched a global synthesis of climate-smart agriculture (CSA) practices, which provides our clearest view yet as to how the world’s 500 million smallholder farmers can reduce their carbon footprint, increase yields and adapt to climate change.

Built from the on-the-ground observations of 1,500 scientists and experts in 33 countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America, the report outlines which site-specific interventions work under which circumstances.

This enables governments, development agencies, private investors – and, crucially, individual farmers and producers’ organizations – to tailor CSA practices to their specific goals and challenges.

Identifying “best-bet” CSA approaches

Our study shows that half of the 1,700 CSA we evaluated fall into just five categories: water management, crop tolerance to stress, intercropping, organic fertilization and pest control, and conservation agriculture. This demonstrates that stakeholders are beginning to find consensus on what they consider climate-smart agriculture.

The study also reveals that many climate-smart agriculture techniques can deliver on all three pillars of CSA: adaptation, mitigation and productivity.

Five technology clusters were ranked in the top 10 for climate-smartness in all three categories: tree management, improved pastures, silvopasture, conservation agriculture and water management.

No one-size-fits-all solutions

The report provides crucial insights when faced with the reality that the majority of smallholders do not yet practice CSA: while interventions are generally similar, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. A technique considered climate-smart in one context is not necessarily climate-smart in another.

The top climate-smart agriculture practices are different in the three continents. In Latin America and the Caribbean smartest technique was silvopasture, whereas intercropping ranked top in Africa. In Asia, biogas harnessing was considered to be the most climate-smart intervention.

Efforts to step up extension are required

While finance is still a barrier to investment in CSA, it is not necessarily the biggest obstacle. The report shows that training and information are actually bigger barriers to CSA implementation. Efforts to scale up CSA interventions, therefore, should focus on delivering expert know-how to farmers that are likely to adopt new practices.

The CSA profiles are an effective entry point to unlock discussions and actions on CSA. They should, however, be embedded within a broader suite of prioritization approaches for CSA interventions.

To support this, CIAT has prepared sub-national climate risks profiles and economic assessments to develop climate smart investment plans (CSIPs). Plans should look beyond on-farm practices and develop strategies that increase the resilience of the whole agricultural value chain, while reducing emissions and improving livelihoods.

CIAT, CCAFS and its partners such as the World Bank are particularly committed to providing support to decision-making to make this agricultural transformation a success.

CSIPs and our better understanding of site-specific CSA interventions will help re-shape the landscape, quite literally. If the future of the world is going to be carbon neutral, nothing less than a large-scale transformation of farming is needed.

For the vast majority of the world’s farmers, this means adopting climate-smart strategies. And for those who have yet start – or those seeking to help them begin – they now have a clearer set of guidelines than ever before.

Article by Godefroy Grosjean

Godefroy Grosjean is Asia Climate Policy Hub Leader, International Center for Tropical Agriculture

Published by IPS-Inter Press Service.