Climate-smart agriculture

Making agriculture better able to cope with increasing variability in climate and weather, and long-term climate change, supporting effective systems of carbon emissions reduction or carbon storage in agriculture.
Innovation in cooperative farming, Rwanda. Flickr, Gates Foundation

Agriculture and food production, and the people who depend on them, will be severely and increasingly impacted by climate change. The sustainability of efforts to feed record global populations is significantly threatened as agricultural systems suffer increasing unpredictability of weather and long-term shifts in climate. These climate changes mean that new practices, improved sustainability approaches, and even entirely new crop/livestock mixtures are needed just to maintain current production and consumption levels. ‘Climate smart agriculture’ (CSA) has gained traction recently in the donor and practitioner arena, spanning adaptation to climate change, emissions mitigation, and national food security and economic development goals. CSA links existing approaches to improvements in agriculture with scientific understandings of both impacts of, and responses to, climate change.

At the same time, climate finance is becoming available for efforts to decrease global greenhouse gas emissions. As agriculture is a major emitter as a sector (>80% total emissions in many developing countries) there is potential for agriculture to receive much-needed investment through these channels, given the right structures.

This programme investigates the following questions:

  • How does the climate smart agriculture approach fit with wider agricultural sustainability initiatives?
  • How can farming be more resilient in a more variable climate? What are the limits to agricultural adaptation (physical/economic/social) and what social and policy changes are needed to support improved resilience both on farm and off farm?
  • What synergies exist between mitigation, adaptation and food security that are workable at scale, and how can this be achieved?
  • What is the replicable, scalable mitigation potential of technical proposals for low-emissions agriculture, and how can institutional and practical barriers be overcome?
  • What is the socio-economic feasibility of such proposals in the context of rural livelihoods?
  • How can monitoring, reporting and verification of carbon capture work effectively in small scale agricultural systems?

In a preliminary study, we examined the feasibility of reducing net greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture in a low income country, Mozambique, to investigate potential trade-offs between mitigating climate change and reducing poverty and hunger. Our evidence suggests that reducing emissions can go hand in hand with reducing poverty.