Connecting research, practice and policy to upscale climate-smart agriculture
A group of women in Kamotony area in Kenya were worried that they were unable to provide food for their children in the face of climate change impacts. They would ask themselves, “Sasa sisi tutafanya nini kutoka hali hii?” What can we do to emancipate ourselves from this situation?
Their situation is not unique. Like most smallholder farmers in developing countries, they face the challenges of food insecurity, poverty, the degradation of local land and water resources, and increasing climatic variability. These farmers rely on agriculture for food and nutrition security, and income. Climate change is a threat to this very important source of their livelihoods.
“If agricultural systems are to meet the needs of these farmers, they must evolve in ways that lead to sustainable increases in food production and at the same time strengthen the resilience of farming communities and rural livelihoods,” said Janie Rioux of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). “Bringing about this evolution involves introducing productive climate-resilient and low-emission agricultural practices in farmers’ fields and adopting a broad vision of agricultural development that directly connects farmers with policies and programmes that can provide them with suitable incentives to adopt new practices.”
The term ‘climate-smart agriculture’ describes the approach that aims to achieve global food security and chart a sustainable pathway for agricultural development in a changing climate. Climate-smart agriculture is intended to increase farm productivity in a sustainable manner, support smallholder farmers to adapt to climate change by building the resilience of agricultural livelihoods and ecosystems, and, wherever possible, to deliver the co-benefit of reduced greenhouse gas emissions. On the ground, climate-smart agriculture is based on a mix of climate-resilient technologies and practices for integrated farming systems and landscape management.
The Mitigation of Climate Change in Agriculture (MICCA) Programme
FAO, with financial support from the Government of Finland, designed the Mitigation of Climate Change in Agriculture (MICCA) Programme to expand this evidence base and build climate-smart agriculture readiness of smallholder farmers. A three-year pilot project was also established to demonstrate that ongoing agricultural development initiatives could bring co-benefits in terms of climate change adaptation and mitigation thereby increase the uptake of climate-smart agriculture at significantly larger scale. Implemented jointly with partners in Kenya and Tanzania, the pilots promoted integrated and diversified farming systems and agro-ecological principles. The pilot projects linked research activities, practical work in farmers’ fields and policy making at different levels to enhance the effectiveness of planning and programming for climate-smart agriculture on farms, throughout the landscape and at the national level.
The East Africa Dairy Development (EADD) programme funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, implemented the pilot in Kenya. CARE International’s Hillside Conservation Agriculture Project (HICAP) in collaboration with Sokoine University was responsible for the Tanzania pilot. In both countries, the World Agroforestry Centre was the lead partner in the area of science for development. Working with farmers and extension agents, scientists, development actors and country-level agencies including government ministries provided the opportunity to increase the uptake of climate-smart agriculture practices and scale up climate-smart agriculture from farmers’ fields to the national level.
Farmers who participated in the MICCA pilot projects reported that the main benefits of following the climate-smart agriculture approach resulted in higher yields, raised farm income and increased food availability.
This shows that climate-smart agriculture can improve food security, alleviate poverty and build more resilient livelihoods. It also indicates that smallholder farmers can be an effective part of the response to climate change and make a meaningful contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
“The MICCA project outcomes have confirmed that connecting research, practice and policy is critical for the effective scaling up of climate-smart agriculture,” added Todd Rosenstock, a climate change scientist at the World Agroforestry Centre. “Building these connections ensures that long-term planning and programming are based on sound evidence from scientific findings and local knowledge and are aligned with broader policy frameworks.”
Recommendations for implementing climate-smart agriculture at local levels
Climate-smart agriculture practices need to be tailored to the specific characteristics of local farming systems, the particular socio-economic conditions, agro-ecological context and farmers’ requirements.
Because the adoption of climate-smart agriculture practices is largely determined by training sessions and farmer-to-farmer learning, it is important to support sustainable approaches for delivering extension services.
Sound understanding of gender-sensitive incentives such as land tenure and access to credit, farm tools and inputs is key to effective climate-smart agriculture programmes, extension strategies and investment plans.
Furthermore, results can strengthen ongoing national and regional planning processes and make valuable contributions to prioritizing and guiding new investments in climate-smart agriculture.
“It is important that new climate finance instruments be integrated with traditional sources of agricultural investment in ways that can underpin the design and implementation of national action plans or programmes related to climate-smart agriculture,” concluded Rioux.
Janie Rioux, Marta Gomez San Juan, Constance Neely, Christina Seeberg-Elverfeldt, Kaisa Karttunen, Todd Rosenstock, Josephine Kirui, Erasto Massoro, Mathew Mpanda, Anthony Kimaro, Thabit Masoud, Morgan Mutoko, Khamaldin Mutabazi, Geoff Kuehne, Anatoli Poultouchidou, Armine Avagyan, Marja-Liisa Tapio-Bistrom, and Martial Bernoux. Planning, implementing and evaluating Climate-Smart Agriculture in Smallholder Farming Systems: The experience of the MICCA pilot projects in Kenya and the United Republic of Tanzania. 2016. 11 Mitigation of Climate Change in Agriculture Series. FAO. http://www.fao.org/3/a-i5805e.pdf
The implementing partners would like to thank the Government of Finland for supporting the MICCA pilot project. We also gratefully acknowledge the more than 9 000 women and men farmers who participated in the MICCA pilot project, together with the Kenyan Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries and the Tanzanian Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries. We also appreciate the support from CARE, the East Africa Dairy Development Project and several individuals who engaged in the project.