Climate Smart Agriculture – increasing productivity sustainably

The New Agriculturalist website has published a points of view article focusing on Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA). Farming First were questioned on CSA, alongside organisations such as the CGIAR, FAO, World Bank, Agriculture for Impact and the Future Agricultures Consortium.

Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) can be defined as:

“…agriculture that sustainably increases productivity, resilience (adaptation), reduces/removes greenhouse gases (mitigation), and enhances achievement of national food security and development goals.” (FAO)

As the world leaders prepare for the  COP17 which will be held in Durban in December – the first time the COP will be held in Africa – there is a need for increased recognition that sustainable agriculture can be a solution to climate change.

What is Climate Smart Agriculture?

As agriculture accounts for 70 percent of water use globally, is a major user of fossil fuels and accounts for 17-30 percent of global greenhouse gases, CSA has tended to be seen as part of the problem of climate change rather than part of the solution. CSA seeks to reverse this pattern and position agriculture as vital in mitigating and adapting to climate change.

New Agriculturalist asked the Farming First coalition how CSA worked. We answered:

“By promoting agricultural best practices, particularly Integrated Crop Management, conservation agriculture, intercropping, improved seeds and fertilizer management practices, as well as supporting increased investment in agricultural research, CSA encourages the use of all available and applicable climate change solutions in a pragmatic and impact-focused manner. Resilience will be key, but ‘climate smart’ is broader and underscores the need for innovation and proactive changes in the way farming is done to not only adapt but also mitigate and increase productivity sustainably.”

Is Climate Smart Agriculture of global importance?

The emphasis on CSA varies according to the level of agricultural development in different countries. For example, developing countries might focus on adapting their agricultural systems to meet the challenges posed by changing climate conditions, whereas developed countries may focus on reducing energy inputs and emissions, or look at carbon trading.

The Farming First coalition said:

“With a predicted 9 billion people by 2050, agricultural production will need to increase by 70 per cent to meet new demands for food, feed, fuel and fibre. As agriculture accounts for up to 30 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, it’s crucial that Climate Smart Agriculture is developed to achieve future food security and climate change goals.”

Alberto Sandoval from the FAO said:

“CSA is about increasing productivity and income in a changing environment… It’s an opportunity to improve livelihoods while enhancing all types of agriculture in different countries all over the world.”

What is new?

Given the current insecurity around climate change and the need to feed an ever-growing population in a sustainable manner, CSA means having to adapt from ‘traditional’ agricultural practices.

Ademola Braimoh from the World Bank said:

“There is a great value addition in integrating adaptation and mitigation because both share the ultimate goal of reducing the undesirable impacts of climate on human livelihoods.”

Alberto Sandoval from the FAO said:

“CSA practices propose a transformation of agriculture, in the way we grow food and treat the environment in a changing climate. It outlines ways to preserve and enhance food security by changing policy and agricultural production systems.”

Will Climate Smart Agriculture be of interest to farmers?

For CSA practices to work, they need buy in from farmers around the globe.

Sir Gordon Conway from Agriculture for Impact said:

Climate Smart Agriculture will only be attractive to farmers if its adoption is incentivised either in terms of high-level financial incentives or in terms of significant gains in productivity.”

George Jacob from Self Help Africa said:

“Smallholder farmers cannot invest heavily in their land, but new methods of farming which are low-input, and yet which result in increased outputs, are particularly attractive.”

Climate Smart Agriculture – who pays?

The Farming First coalition said:

“Ultimately climate smart pays for itself. The benefits in terms of food security and sustainability are far greater than the cost of supporting farmers, or the costs of inaction, in terms of human, social and environmental as well as financial costs.”

Bruce Campbell from the CGIAR said:

“In a developing country context, major public investment may be needed to kick start some CSA technologies and practices. If farmers are going to incur costs in putting carbon into the soil, those costs will need to be recouped somehow.”

Scaling up Climate Smart Agriculture

In terms of scaling up CSA, the Farming First coalition believe immediate priorities should include:

–       The realisation of the G8 funding commitments made in L’Aquila;

–       National government commitment to earmark specific funding to re-establish and improve extension services;

–        Strong and global commitment to supporting public-private partnerships as a means to advance research and the adoption of new practices and technologies;

–       Specific commitments to research funding in key crops and on key issues, such as water use.


To read the full article on New Agriculturalist, please see:

To read more about how the Farming First principles can be applied to climate change, please visit:

To read more about Farming First’s view on building a global green economy and to watch our animated video, please visit:

One response to “Climate Smart Agriculture – increasing productivity sustainably

  1. Pingback: Investing in Climate-Smart Agriculture for Africa | Farming First

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