Heard anyone say ‘climate-smart agriculture’ lately and understood what they meant?

The question of just what constitutes so-called climate-smart agriculture has been puzzling me as I’ve heard the term pop up on numerous occasions recently. Agriculture and environment ministers from across the African continent had the opportunity to become familiar with the term last week during a meeting which was geared towards briefing them ahead of the 17thConvention of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change which will be held in Durban, South Africa in November 2011. And now thanks to the World Bank publications prepared for that event I too have broadened my knowledge:

Climate-smart agriculture seeks to increase sustainable productivity, strengthen farmers’ resilience, reduce agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions and increase carbon sequestration. It strengthens food security and delivers environmental benefits. Climate-smart agriculture includes proven practical techniques — such as mulching, intercropping, conservation agriculture, crop rotation, integrated crop-livestock management, agroforestry, improved grazing, and improved water management — and innovative practices such as better weather forecasting, more resilient food crops and risk insurance.

Happily, agroforestry appears in this rather all-encompassing definition. The foreword of the brochure notes that agroforestry offers an alternative approach to mainstream agriculture that farmers and researchers need to consider because of the pressing need to produce more food on less land in more sustainable ways, and in the face of a changing climate.

Indeed, agroforestry is a time-proven practice that is being used successfully by about 1.2 billion people worldwide, and is showing promising results in addressing the challenges faced by agriculture.

The recent briefing of African ministers on climate-smart agriculture aimed to forge consensus around agriculture and its role in climate change. With climate change expected to impact African tropical agriculture significantly—and negatively—by reducing yields by 28 percent over the coming half century, it is obviously crunch time for re-think in the sector. The ministers came up with the Johannesburg Communique which calls for action to place climate-smart agriculture at the heart of adaptation and mitigation strategies for combating climate change. It urges COP-17 to establish an agriculture Programme of Work to cover adaptation and mitigation, and urges African negotiators at COP-17 to engage with representatives of the agriculture sector.

Climate-smart agriculture includes those proven practical techniques and approaches that can help achieve the elusive triple win of food security, adaptation and mitigation.

So how do we mainstream these approaches?


Kate Langford

Kate Langford is a consultant writer with close to 20 years’ experience in communicating natural resource, environmental and land management issues for various government and non-government organizations. She previously worked as Communications Specialist for the World Agroforestry Centre in Kenya and has worked in Indonesia, Laos, Vietnam and Australia. She holds a Bachelor of Science and a Graduate Diploma in Scientific Communication.

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