UN expert identifies drivers of successful climate smart agriculture practices

Policymakers and stakeholders should find out more about the key enablers of climate smart agriculture (CSA) to ensure the success of the CSA practices and programs they plan to implement, according to an expert.

Imelda Bacudo, co-chair of the Global Alliance for Climate Smart Agriculture (GACSA), a United Nations-initiated multistakeholder platform that aims to accelerate the scaling up of CSA, said climate smart agriculture is an approach that helps guide actions to transform agri-food systems toward green and climate change-resilient practices.

Bacudo said in a recent webinar hosted by the Asian Productivity Organization that CSA is not a new concept as it is already practiced worldwide, including in many parts of the Asia-Pacific, as a way to contribute to the global ambition of lowering the temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

CSA has three pillars, namely, the sustainable increase of agricultural productivity and incomes, the adaptation and building of resilience of people and food systems to climate change, and the reduction and/or removal of greenhouse gas emissions where possible.

Climate-smart practices are varied, ranging from the use of varieties resistant to drought, salinity, pests and diseases, integrated farming systems, and crop diversification, to the use of technological advances, application of cropping calendar, and manure management.

Bacudo said they have identified key enabling factors for the adoption of CSA in Asia- Pacific as gleaned from the success of some of the practices implemented across the world.

These key enablers include the formulation of equitable climate-smart agricultural policies. “It would be good to have enabling policy frameworks that create an environment that supports the implementation of CSA,” Bacudo said.

Another is the designing of gender-inclusive climate smart interventions through an analysis of gender roles and making sure both men and women are included in every step of implementation.

The assessment of farm trade-offs and cost benefit of a CSA project is another.

Bacudo said a good program is one that can balance lowering greenhouse gas emissions with improving farmers’ incomes, for example.

Projects should also ensure there is support for farmer-to-farmer and community-wide social learning. Bacudo noted that government CSA initiatives seem to fare less successfully if they do not incorporate farmer-to-farmer or peer-to-peer learning.

Moreover, it is crucial to know what drives the adoption of a particular climate-smart agriculture practice. Bacudo noted that some of these drivers include market access,land productivity, labor availability, and government incentives.

Projects should also focus on the scaling out of climate-smart agricultural technologies to farming communities as the success of a CSA initiative will not be possible if only a few households are involved.

Further, when choosing among climate-smart practices, it is important to prioritize the option with the greatest impact, said Bacudo.

“There’s a multitude of practices and it’s important that you understand the priorities or benefits of each approach.” She said a particular CSA tool could be chosen based on how it can attract technical and financial support in implementation, for example.

Another enabling element for successful CSA is encouraging investment in climate- smart soil and land health. Long-term investment is important to increase agricultural productivity, build on-farm resilience, and contribute to climate change adaptation and mitigation.

Finally, the use of real-time monitoring tools is also a key to success. “You want to get essential feedback to ensure that projects are on track in a timely way, essentially by ensuring fast-moving CSA interventions,” Bacudo explained.

She shared the lessons GACSA has learned from working with farmer organizations, governments and other stakeholders on how to accelerate CSA practices.

Don’t reinvent the wheel. Understand what has been done before. Work together because partnership is key. “There are so many large players and small players and we all need one another,” Bacudo said.

Find champions. It’s important to find where the “warm energy” is coming from, to find the fighters who will identify the challenges and solve them with the group.

Identify or find support. This will be directed to the strengthening of weak areas such as lack of finances or technical know-how.

Reflect on and understand lessons learned.

Innovate. Many innovations are happening right now, and some, while small scale, are highly effective and can be adopted without too much capital.

Put farmers at the center of the program.

Agriculture is one of the most vulnerable sectors to climate change, with an Asian Development Bank study warning that rice yields could drop by as much as 50% by 2100 from 1990 levels if climate change impacts are not mitigated, said Bacudo.

Climate change also threatens to reverse productivity gains and the improvements in food security and nutrition across the region. With the significant role agriculture plays in the economy of Asia-Pacific, Bacudo stressed the need to strengthen climate change resilience in the region.

Agriculture provides jobs for one-third of the working population in Asia and in Southeast Asia alone, agriculture contributes more than 10% of the region’s GDP.

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