Climate-smart agriculture: Lessons from Africa, for the World

The world’s climate is changing, and is projected to continue to do so for the foreseeable future. The impact of climate change will be particularly felt in agriculture, as rising temperatures, changing rainfall patterns, and increased pests and diseases pose new and bigger risks to the global food system. Simply put, climate change will make food security and poverty reduction even more challenging in the future.

Until recently, agriculture has tended to be on the sidelines of discussions concerning human-induced climate change.

However, at the recently concluded UN climate talks in Bonn (COP 23), the sector experienced a step forward, through an agreement among Parties that agriculture should be integrated into the Paris Agreement. The COP 23’s momentous decision is consistent with the growing recognition of agriculture’s contribution to climate change, the need for farming systems to adapt to the changes, and the potential of agriculture to significantly mitigate climate impacts.

These ideas are embodied in the concept of ‘Climate-Smart Agriculture’ – an approach for transforming and reorienting agricultural systems to support food security under the new realities of climate change. Climate-smart agriculture comprises 3 pillars: (1) sustainably increasing agricultural productivity to support equitable increases in incomes, food security and development; (2) adapting and building resilience to climate change from the farm to national levels; and (3) developing opportunities to reduce GHG emissions from agriculture compared with past trends.

The growing momentum on Climate-Smart Agriculture in high level decision-making spaces is being increasingly reflected in farmer’s fields around the world.

I see it in Zambia, where we’re supporting the government’s efforts to scale up climate-smart agriculture throughout the Eastern Province, which has experienced declining soil health and long droughts. Recently, through the Community Markets for Conservation Landscape Management Project, Zambian communities and farmer groups received US $814,000 in carbon payments for reducing forest loss and degradation, and promoting adoption of CSA. From Niger to Mozambique, there is growing demand in World Bank client countries for assistance in putting their food and agriculture sectors onto a more climate-smart path.

There is also a hunger for practical, implementable knowledge on CSA. This is why the World Bank recently produced a booklet showcasing 10 success stories across Africa. The stories indicate how countries have combated drought (Morocco), raised productivity through climate-smart irrigation (Tanzania), and improved coffee farming through public-private partnership (Uganda).

These initiatives have all paid dividends in terms of boosting the livelihoods and resilience of smallholder farmers and also cutting emissions.

The establishment of climate-smart villages provided more food and better nutrition options to families in Nyando, West Kenya—81% of whom routinely experience one to two hunger months every year. The use of shade trees in Uganda is helping farmers boost their coffee crops—shade trees can reduce the temperature in coffee growing areas by 2°C–5°C and avert crop losses, which could exceed more than US$100 million per year without adaptation. In West Africa, research is supporting the development of climate-smart varieties of staple crops such as rice (Mali), banana and plantain (Cote d’Ivoire) and maize (Benin). Farmers are also getting access to more efficient water harvesting systems. The Bank’s climate-smart agriculture projects in West Africa have improved the livelihoods of more than 7 million farmers and 4 million hectares of land with climate-smart agriculture practices.

This is just a start. The World Bank is doing more to foster the adoption of CSA around Africa through the Africa Climate Business Plan. The Bank advocates for CSA, works with stakeholders to foster adoption of CSA polices, and finances investment programs to scale up CSA technologies. The Bank’s experiences in and lessons from Africa could have impact beyond the region, and be instructive for countries around the world. As more governments commit to a more sustainable, climate-smart food system, there is plenty to learn from Kenya’s climate smart villages and Uganda’s climate smart coffee growers—and more, as climate smart agriculture continues to gain momentum in the region.

 

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