Climate-Smart Agriculture: a potential pathway to address climatic risks

Agriculture and food security are closely interlinked with the former being the key element to abolish hunger, poverty, and malnutrition. 


Renu MehtaRenu Mehta | Devdiscourse | Updated: 30-12-2019 10:26 IST | Created: 30-12-2019 10:13 IST
Climate-Smart Agriculture: a potential pathway to address climatic risks
Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA), a sustainable agricultural practice has emerged as a potential pathway to simultaneously address two closely interlinked issues of climate change and food security. Image Credit: Pixabay

Agriculture today provides livelihoods for 40 percent of the global population and forms a significant portion of all developing economies, particularly Africa, Latin America, and China.

Despite the progress achieved over the years, 821 million or one in nine people worldwide are still food insecure, owing to urbanization, climate change, population growth, and more factors. Taking the recent example of the crisis in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) where nearly 10.1 million people are suffering from severe food shortages following the worst harvest in 10 years, due to dry spells, heatwaves, and flooding. Also, according to the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), global food production must increase by at least 60 percent to respond to the demand of the 9 billion people that are expected to inhabit the planet by 2050.

With the rapidly increasing temperature, glaciers, and polar ice are melting faster than ever, thus increasing the risk of floods, droughts, and other natural calamities. These climate-related disasters impact agricultural production (in terms of both quality and quantity as well), therefore affecting food security. The alarming trend is one of the profound impacts of climate change.

But this is half the story. Not only climate change but agriculture too has a significant effect on the former. Agriculture, forestry and other land use activities make up to 17 percent of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, a leading cause of global warming. Both the nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide emissions from soils, fertilizers, manure, and the methane gas released from ruminant livestock are the major contributors to global greenhouse gas emissions.

Hence, it's critical to transform food production systems to enhance productivity and resilience to climate change whilst simultaneously achieving sustainability by reducing agriculture's contribution to climate change. Also, extreme environmental events including the intense wildfires across Australia, Amazon, and California and devastating hurricanes and drought across the globe highlight the need for sustainable agricultural practices.

CSA: a viable answer to climate change

Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA), a sustainable agricultural practice has emerged as a potential pathway to simultaneously address two closely interlinked issues of climate change and food security.

The concept was first presented by the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization in 2009. With an explicit focus on climate change, CSA integrates existing tools and technologies of sustainable agriculture to achieve three key objectives:

  • Increasing agricultural productivity and incomes
  • adapting and building resilience to climate change; and
  • reducing and/or removing GHG footprints

The integrated approach also focuses on identifying potential synergies between food security, adaptation, and mitigation, as well as estimating costs and trade-offs between mitigation and other objectives to better inform countries about the potential for capturing mitigation co-benefits and associated financing.

CSA projects

  • Initiative 20x20

Latin America and the Caribbean account for about half of the world's remaining tropical and southern temperate forests. Worryingly, in the recent few years, 20 percent of forest lands (nearly 350 million hectares) have been completely deforested and a further 20 percent (300 million hectares) badly degraded, owing to a number of factors such as agricultural activities, infrastructure, mining, to name a few.

Land-use activities like agriculture, animal husbandry, and forestry contribute 5 percent of the region's GDP and about 14 percent of its employment. Land restoration can increase food productivity and security for an estimated 49 million undernourished people in Latin America and the Caribbean.

In line with the global restoration goals outlined under the Bonn Challenge, a global commitment to restore 150 million hectares of degraded land by the year 2020 through forest and landscape restoration, and the New York Declaration on Forests that seeks to restore 350 million hectares by 2030, a new initiative supporting restoration activities in LatAm was launched at COP 20 in Lima, back in December 2014.

Supported by more than 40 technical organizations and institutions and an acting secretariat within the World Resources Institute (WRI), Initiative 20x20 is a country-led effort that seeks to bring 20 million hectares of degraded land in Latin America and the Caribbean into restoration by 2020.

Video Credit: World Resources Institute

The initiative is focused on three main activities:

  • a political drive to inspire commitments to restoration
  • an analysis to document the economic case for restoration, and
  • a supportive financial mechanism that allows private-sector impact investors to fund restoration activities

The World Resources Institute, a global research organization dedicated to creating real change on the ground facilitates the dialogue between governments, civil society, and the private sector to build an effective coalition that can achieve the key goals of the initiative.

  • Africa CSA Vision 25x25

Agriculture is the backbone of the African economy as a vast portion of the continent's population relies on agriculture and non-farm rural enterprises for their livelihoods. According to a report, Climate change is making African farmers more vulnerable. As a result, sub-Saharan Africa will have to suffer 22 percent yield losses by 2050 if the agricultural sector does not adapt to climate change by 2050.

To manage climatic risks and scale-up the adoption of CSA, the African Union-New Partnership for African Development (AU-NEPAD), back in 2014, adopted the Africa Climate Smart Agriculture Vision 25X25 initiative with a goal to have at least 25 million farm households in practicing CSA by 2025.

The Vision 25x25 came out of the AU Leaders "Malabo Declaration" of 2014 that set a path forward for African agricultural development over the next decade.

  • Big Data 2 CSA

With the advent of big data, there is no dearth of real-time, low-cost and open data. A collection of extremely huge volumes of data sets in real-time is how big data can be defined as. Realizing its potential, the Big data analytics for climate-smart agriculture in South Asia (Big Data 2 CSA) project (2019-2021), in partnership with national research systems and international partners across the region in India, Nepal, and Bangladesh, responds by developing digital data collection systems to source, data-mine and interpret a wide variety of primary agronomic management and socio-economic data from tens of thousands of smallholder rice and wheat farmers.

Big Data 2 CSA is scaling-up the use of digital tools among national research and extension partners in these South Asian nations to collect detailed information using digital survey techniques on farmers' crop management practices, yield and profitability outcomes, resilience enhancing practices, and to simulate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

How the World Bank is catalyzing efforts?

The Maharashtra Project for Climate Resilient Agriculture, the largest CSA project financed by the World Bank to date is estimated to yield climate change adaptation and mitigation co-benefits amounting to over USD 386 million. By promoting sustainable agricultural technologies and farming practices, the USD 420 million project aims to enhance climate‐resilience and profitability of over 25 million small and marginal farmers by 2024. The project is being implemented in rural areas largely dependent upon rainfed agriculture.

The USD 248 million Africa-Regional Sahel Pastoralism Support Project is another project financed by the World Bank to support over 2 million pastoralists and agro-pastoralists across six Sahelian countries who depend on pastoral activities for their livelihood. Launched in 2015, the project is helping six beneficiary countries including Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and Senegal to enhance productivity and resilience to climate change while reducing GHG emissions. The key focus areas of the project include:

  1. Improving animal health, access to essential productive assets, services, and markets for pastoralists and agro-pastoralists
  2. Promote national and regional cooperation to facilitate trade and resource management
  3. Enhance resilience to climate change, animal diseases, economic hazards, conflicts, and insecurity

CSA Investment Plans

Building on the Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA) country profiles that give an overview of the agricultural challenges in countries around the world, the World Bank is now bringing the CSA approach to life with the CSA Investment Plan (CSAIP), a strategic and well-planned document detailing CSA development projects.

Developed in collaboration with multiple partners, the CSAIPs identify concrete actions governments around the world can take to boost climate-smart agriculture. In addition, CSAIPs can be integrated into NDC and other national targets including the National Agriculture Investment Plans. They not only inform governments, development partners and other stakeholders about promising climate-smart agriculture technologies, but associated costs as well.

To overcome climate change risks in Bangladesh, one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change, the World Bank recently launched the CSAIP to inform the implementation of major existing policies and policy formulation processes in the country.

The Investment Plan identifies five key investment areas totaling about USD 809 million to:

  • set the agriculture sector on a resilient growth path
  • contribute towards achieving the government's 2041 development targets
  • reduce emissions, and
  • reach Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) regarding climate change and the goals of Delta Plan 2100

Other than Bangladesh, the World Bank has also designed CSAIP for Zambia to help better integrate proven climate-smart agriculture practices into Zambia's agriculture policy, investments and accelerate productivity despite climate vulnerabilities. The Zambia CSAIP recommends focusing on crop diversification, commercial horticulture, agroforestry, and infrastructure to reduce post-harvest losses.

The Adaptation of African Agriculture (AAA), an initiative aimed at reducing the climate-change vulnerability of African agriculture and to attract a substantial share of climate funds also uses CSAIPs to identify the adaptation priorities of its member countries in the agriculture sector.

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed are the personal views of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of Devdiscourse and Devdiscourse does not claim any responsibility for the same.)

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