ICRAF at GLF 2014: Approaching climate-smart agriculture from a perspective of systems

This article posts during GLF 2014. See in English | Espanol


From left to right: Henry Neufeldt (ICRAF), Alexandre Meybeck, Todd Rosenstock (ICRAF), Fabiola Munoz-Dodero (SERFOR), Hlami Ngwenya, Martin Bwalya (NEPAD), Austin Tibu (Malawi’s agriculture ministry). See speakers’ bios here. Photo: ICRAF

By Susan Onyango, originally posted at the Agroforestry World Blog

The world’s population is expected to exceed 9 billion by 2050. For some countries, this will double. FAO estimates that global agricultural production will have to increase by 60% to meet increased demand, driven by population growth and diet changes. On the other hand, climate change is already negatively affecting forestry and agriculture presenting a triple challenge around food security and nutrition, adaptation to climate change and contribution to climate change mitigation

It is widely accepted that climate-smart agriculture is an important new approach to addressing food and nutritional security, adaptation and mitigation within one framework. Initiatives such as the Africa Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture and the Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture will enable millions of smallholder farmers to increase their food production and earnings, and at the same time protect their ecosystems. However, there is still great uncertainty as to what should be considered as climate-smart practices, and how they might be scaled up effectively.

At a session organized by the World Agroforestry Centre and FAO at the Global Landscapes Forum, researchers, policy makers, development practitioners examined factors make climate-smart agriculture the answer to addressing food security, adaptation and mitigation challenges.

A lot of research has been done in agriculture over the decades. However, despite growing momentum very little data and comprehensive research is available on synergies and trade-offs of agriculture in the tropics.

Mitigation and adaptation are inter-related. Recent research to quantify the effects of some climate-smart technologies based on a meta-analysis of over 1400 peer-reviewed publications showed that synergies and trade-offs among climate-smart agriculture components may show positive impacts. “This meta-analysis provides a useful benchmark of climate-smart agriculture’s scientific basis and can support the transition from hype to meaningful impact on the ground,” said Todd Rosenstock, an agroecologist at the World Agroforestry Centre.

Martin Bwalya, Head of NEPAD’s Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme remarked, “Climate-smart agriculture goes beyond productivity. How far is it going to support emerging trends related to climate change and variability? This means understanding risks and opportunities attributed to climate change.”

Rather than approaching the solutions from a perspective of climate-smart agriculture technologies, looking at climate-smart agriculture systems including resources, practices and policies may offer a sustainable outcome. Hlami Ngwenya, Communications and Knowledge Manager at FANPRAN added, “We need to accelerate an enabling environment that will speed up the climate-smart agriculture practice; not only at the technologies but also on the policies.”

Linking research to policy

The concept will only succeed if researchers and policy-makers work together to enable the impact that climate-smart agriculture promises. Fabiola Muñoz-Dodero, Executive Director of Peru’s National Forest and Wildlife Service (SERFOR) said, “All decisions at SERFOR are made with technical input. My part is to link research to public policy. We will only succeed if we appreciate the complementary role of researchers and national decision makers.”

The value of climate-smart agriculture should go back to the local circumstances – environmental, resilience and enable them to move toward to prosperity. Austin Tibu, Land Resources Conservation Officer at Malawi’s Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water added, “We should go beyond food security, adaptation and mitigation to satisfy what the farmers expect from climate-smart agriculture practices.”

In conclusion, the panelists concurred that climate-smart agriculture should be viewed as a system at different scales. Climate-smart agriculture is context specific – solutions should vary for different locations and are time and scale dependent. There will be trade-offs between synergies around sustainable improvements in productivity, improving resilience and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It is important to account for these trade-offs as climate-smart agriculture programmes are being designed and implemented.

Henry Neufeldt, the head of the World Agroforestry’s climate change unit wrapped up the session by saying, “Multi-stakeholder cooperation, research and investments on climate-smart agriculture are necessary for initiatives such as the Africa Climate-Smart Agriculture Alliance and the Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture to succeed. Most importantly, a strong enabling environment will help catalyze the adoption of climate-smart agriculture systems.”