Stories tagged: Climate-smart agriculture

10 Ways Agriculture is Getting Climate-Smart

As climate negotiations continue at COP23 in Bonn, Farming First takes a look at 10 stories of climate-smart agriculture in action in this latest supporter spotlight. Find out how Farming First supporters are helping farmers grow more, adapt to changing weather patterns and minimise their own carbon footprints.

1. WINnERS: Sharing Risk Through Innovative Insurance

WINnERS (Weather Index based Risk Services) is working to develop state-of-the-art weather and climate modelling technology to measure the risk exposure that retailers, buyers, banks and smallholder farmers will face in the future. This information is then integrated into agricultural insurance contracts that share risk between the various actors of a particular supply chain. Instead of having only farmers as the insurance policyholders, this means that everyone – buyers, banks, and producers – all take on some of the risk inherent in farming. So if it rains too much, not enough, or not at the right times, everyone is protected. Read more >>

2. Chemonics: Taking CSA Products to the Farmer

In recent years, persistent drought and unpredictable rainy seasons in Uganda have resulted in reduced crop yields and crop failure, pest prevalence, and increased post-harvest losses, threatening both livelihoods and food security. Chemonics is working with Feed the Future to train a network of village agents in climate-smart agriculture (CSA) practices, which the agents in turn promote to farmers. Village agents provide extension, inputs, and other products and services to farmers to help them increase the quantity and quality of their yields. Example CSA products include certified drought-resistant and fast-maturing seed varieties, micro-irrigation kits, and herbicide for conservation tillage. As of 2016, this project had enabled more than 150,000 farmers to adopt climate-resilient technologies. Read more >>

3. Access Agriculture: A Video Library for Smart Farming

Access Agriculture hosts “AgTube”, a library of videos filmed by farmers, for farmers in over 30 languages. Browse solutions for climate change in the search box. This video gives examples of water harvesting, on-farm trees, intercropping and soil conservation as ways for farmers to build resilience to changing weather patterns. Read more >>

4. Self Help Africa: Transforming the Village Where Nothing Grows

Temperatures in Burkina Faso can soar above 50 degrees. Almost nothing is able to grow in this extreme heat, which is continuing to rise. With the support of Self Help Africa, one women’s group in Gometenga village sees hope. They are being trained to grow vegetables, to irrigate their crops from a new well, and keep out grazing livestock. “If production is good, there will be something in the village for my son to come back from Ivory Coast to work on,” says Kangabega Ayesto. “It will show him that there are opportunities in Gomtenga to earn a living”. Read more >>

5. IFA: The Brazilian Agronomist Reducing the Emissions of Tropical Agriculture

Ethanol powers 40% of vehicles in Brazil and the market is expected to continue to rise. To make the transition from fossil fuels to biofuel a sound move both economically and environmentally, we need to keep sugarcane’s production emissions in check. An innovative use of fertilizer can reduce nitrous oxide emissions associated with sugarcane production by up to 95% Dr. Heitor Canterella of São Paulo recently won the IFA Norman Borlaug Award for his work in this area, to lower the emissions of tropical agriculture. Read more >>

6. Farm Africa: New Weather Stations in Ethiopia to Take Bite out of Climate Shocks

A set of new automated weather stations has been installed in Ethiopia to help pastoralist and agro-pastoralist communities respond better to recurring climate shocks. A total of 25 solar-powered automated weather stations have been installed across Afar, Somali and SNNP regions. The stations supply localised, accurate and timely data to relevant government agencies and local communities, which will help communities predict the availability of water and grass for their livestock to graze on and allow government agencies to pre-empt and monitor extreme weather events. “The information we are listening to now is very useful. It is exact.” commented Ato Endashaw Lole, a local resident. “If the radio says there will be heavy rain, there will be heavy rain — and we’ll be ready for it”. Read more >>

7. CropLife International Food Hero Series: Tackling Climate Change and Soil Salinity in India

Dr. Ashwani Pareek received a call from his father to say that in his hometown of Sambhar Village in Rajasthan India, farmers were no longer able to grow crops due to increased soil salinity and climate change. Together with his wife, Dr. Sneh Latah Singla-Pareek, he is now working on breeding plants that can still thrive in these extreme conditions. Farmers that are struggling tell Dr. Pareek they would welcome drought-tolerant, salt-tolerant crops, in order to feed their families and continue their legacy of generations of farming. Read more >> 

8. One Acre Fund: A Climate-Smart Strategy for Farming in Africa

One Acre Fund is in the process of building Africa’s “largest multi-layer climate resilience shield” for smallholders. Guided by three principles: adaptation, mitigation and sustainable intensification, their work seeks to help farmers overcome the challenges of climate change. Interventions include crop insurance, and increasing crop diversity to ensure farmers can hedge against climate shocks. In recognition of the importance of healthy soils for increased water retention and building resilience to drought, One Acre Fund also provides ongoing training to farmers on integrated soil fertility management, providng products that build long-term soil health. Read more >>

Moses Odoli stands among his drought-affected maize crops in Western Kenya. Image credit: One Acre Fund

Moses Odoli stands among his drought-affected maize crops in Western Kenya. Image credit: One Acre Fund

9. IFDC: Micronutrients to Mitigate Drought Stress

According to a scientific publication released this year by IFDC and VFRC, micronutrients provide multiple benefits to crops, such as boosting crop performance under adverse environmental conditions. In particular, the paper demonstrates the effects of micronutrients in mitigating drought stress in soybean. Treatment of the plants with micronutrients mitigated the reduction of nutrient uptake under drought conditions. Nitrogen uptake was significantly increased. Similarly, zinc uptake and grain zinc content were significantly enhanced by the formulations. Therefore, agronomic fortification of zinc in food crops may be an effective strategy for increasing the nutritional quality of edible produce under water limiting conditions. Read more >>

10. AgDevCo: Bringing Irrigation to Sugarcane Production in Malawi

The arid land in Southern Malawi has forced communities into perpetual poverty and driven farmers out of business.  An investment from AgDevCo into the Phata sugar co-operative in Malawi made it possible to irrigate land for growing sugarcane.  “I’m one of many people in the nearby village, who are employed by the Phata co-operative to harvest sugar cane,” says Alice. “In the past, if I was lucky, I would get seasonal work but even that depended on the rain. Crops are now grown on irrigated land and there is work year-round. I have a steady income, which goes a long way to support my extended family.” Read more >> 

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GACSA Annual Forum 2017

12th – 14th December, 2017

Rome, Italy

From 12-14 December the GACSA Annual Forum will take place in Rome at FAO Headquarters, sharing experiences and setting out strategic goals for the future to make Climate-Smart Agriculture  (CSA) a reality.


The Annual Forum will focus on promoting and showcasing CSA with a view to revitalizing efforts to scale up the implementation of CSA in various ecosystems and regions of the world, taking into account lessons learned. Particular attention will be given to results achieved by GACSA through its Action Groups and its members as well as through increased regional engagement.

The three-day event will explore the following themes:

  1. CSA in action across scales: local, regional to global
  2. Looking ahead: what is next for CSA?
  3. Deliverables for GACSA


COP23 – Agriculture Advantage Events

7th – 14th November 2017

Bonn, Germany

A series of side events at COP23 for setting an agenda for transforming agricultural development in the face of climate change.

Both part of the cause of climate change, but also part of the solution, agriculture is central to any debate on global warming and extreme weather events. The interactions between the agricultural sector and climate change have undeniable implications for both global food security and our environment. Despite this global significance, and perhaps due to the complexity of the subject, there has been little progress to date on agriculture in the United Nations Framework on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process. Although COP17 in Durban made issues relating to agriculture in an agenda item under the UNFCCC’s Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA), the process has failed to conclude and determine concrete next steps. However, the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) under the Paris Agreement overwhelmingly prioritise the sector for climate action. 119 countries include agricultural mitigation in their INDCs, and of the 138 countries that include adaptation, almost all (127) include agriculture as a priority (Richards et al. 2016). Agriculture is also key to achieving Sustainable Development Goals set by countries.

“Agriculture Advantage: The case for climate action in agriculture” is an initiative and collaboration effort between different organizations with the same mission to transform agricultural development in the face of climate change. The event aims to articulate the different dimensions of climate actions in the agricultural sector.


How Haiti is Becoming More Resilient to Extreme Weather

In this guest blog post, Caryl Merten, an associate in Chemonics’ West and Central Africa and Haiti Division continues our brand new series “SDG2 Countdown“. For five weeks, we will count down to the United Nations’ meeting that will track SDG progress, by exploring the five targets related to SDG2: ending hunger. This week, we explore SDG2.4: resilient food systems.

Haiti is no stranger to bouts of extreme weather and changes in climate patterns, namely droughts and harsh hurricanes that threaten food security. Due to the vulnerability of much of the rural population, many trees have been cut down for charcoal, increasing susceptibility to dangerous mudslides off the mountainous terrain during heavy rains. Erosion and changes in precipitation patterns have contributed to recent flooding, which in turn destroys crops and livestock.

These experiences prove that climate change hits the poorest people the hardest. Many developing countries are especially susceptible to shocks that are increasingly likely due to rising sea levels, higher temperatures, changes in climate patterns, and more extreme weather. In addition, the majority of the world’s poor live in rural areas, and agriculture, a sector prone to cascading negative effects of climate change, is their most significant source of income.

Climate-smart agriculture (CSA) is a movement to build resilient agriculture and locally-sustainable systems to ensure food security, despite increasing climate-related shocks. It includes ecosystem and landscape management, education around climate-related risks, and adaptations in policy and practices in the wider food system. A climate-oriented mindset in agriculture can help communities practice environmentally friendly methods and build resilience among their crops and livestock to enhance long-term regional food security.

in Haiti, climate-smart agriculture techniques are being implemented to lessen the negative impacts of climate-related shocks.

The USAID-funded Haiti Chanje Lavi Plantè (CLP) program, implemented by Chemonics, is one program that strives to protect hillsides from erosion while promoting sustainable agriculture practices that increase production.

Greenhouse agriculture

Under the former USAID Feed the Future-West/Watershed Initiative for National Natural Environment Resources (WINNER) project, greenhouse agriculture was introduced to farmer organizations in hillside areas. CLP has continued supporting this initiative by providing low-cost water retention ponds, each holding up to 14,000 gallons of water. The additional water has helped farmer associations grow crops year-round in greenhouses, particularly during the dry season. The farmers use vertical drip irrigation to maximize the space while utilizing minimum water. Thanks to greenhouse agriculture, farmers can grow up to 30 times more per hectare compared to traditional agriculture on hillsides. Greenhouse agriculture provides a sustainable alternative to hillside agriculture by terracing the land and planting vegetal structures on the slopes (including vetiver, elephant grass, and pigeon peas).

Women work inside a WINNER greenhouse where they are growing lettuce and peppers.

Women work inside a WINNER greenhouse where they are growing lettuce and peppers.

Ravine stabilization and hillside terracing

To prevent erosion and high amounts of sediment swept downstream, CLP is working with 10 farmer organizations upstream of the Rivière Grise irrigation system in Kenscoff and Belle Fontaine to stabilize 13 ravines with gabions, dry stone walls, and biological structures, such as vetiver, to limit the amount of erosion in these hillside areas and conserve the soil. To accompany ravine stabilization efforts, farmer organizations are also finalizing the conversion of 50 hectares of terraces in Kenscoff and Belle Fontaine. By terracing slopes of less than 25 degrees, farmers can grow crops in hillside areas while protecting the slopes from erosion by using vetiver to stabilize the soil.


CLP is planting 3 million tree seedlings on hillsides. The project’s approach considers the value of trees to farmers: Approximately 60 percent of the trees planted are fruit trees (breadfruit, loquat, and peach) that can be used by farmers in the future to complement their income. All the tree seedlings will be planted in strategic areas that will have the greatest likelihood of protecting the population and infrastructure built downstream from heavy sediment.

For a country like Haiti where the effects of climate change can cascade down to impact economic and food security among the rural poor, climate-smart agriculture is essential. These practices strengthen local farming institutions, revitalize deforested regions, and increase agricultural production, all with the underlying goal of improving environmental resilience in the face of climate change.


Sustainable smallholder development

14-15 March 2017

London, UK

A two-day conference on how business can engage with small farmers to ensure supply security and resilience at scale. We will focus on the top priorities across commodities to provide high-level insight and practical, actionable guidance on how business can implement effective programmes that will boost the resilience of smallholders at scale. Read more >>

Lawrence Biyika Songa: The Cost of Climate Change for Ugandan Farmers

Q&A with Lawrence Biyika Songa, COP representative for Uganda

At the COP22 conference on climate change, held in Marrakech in November, the spotlight fell squarely on Africa and the impact of global warming on agriculture. Farming First caught up with Lawrence Biyika Songa, Uganda’s representative at the talks, to delve deeper into the issues facing farmers in the country.

FF: How is climate change affecting farmers in Uganda?

LBS: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) summarises climate change as any change in climate over time, whether due to natural variability or as a result of human activity. This is equally true in Uganda. Unsustainable utilisation of natural resources and poor technological use has increased incidences of greenhouse gas emissions. For instance, 90 per cent of energy consumption in Uganda is met by firewood, amounting to 18 million tonnes of emissions a year.

The impact of such activity has been increased weather variability, with greater frequency and intensity of weather extremes, including high temperatures leading to prolonged drought and erratic rainfall patterns. These incidences are threatening Uganda’s environmental, social and economic development, including agriculture.

Changing weather patterns in Uganda are making it difficult for farmers in the country to plan using the traditional two planting seasons, which used to be much easier to predict. Previously the weather pattern indicated two good planting seasons, March to May and September to November. Now, however, rainfall sometimes continues during the dry seasons, and prolonged dry spells during rainy seasons make it difficult for farmers to plan ahead.

Other challenges related to climate change include tropical storms, wildfire, siltation, soil erosion, pests and diseases which are causing devastating loss to farmer’s yields.

So there are five main ways that climate change is impacting farming in Uganda: (i) the area suitable for agriculture is becoming unpredictable (ii) the length of the growing season is more difficult to forecast (iii) yield potentials are varying and decreasing (iv) the frequency and severity of extreme events (in particular droughts and floods) are extreme (v) the incidence of plant diseases are high. And, in the case of livestock climate change may affect production through: (i) impacts on the quantity and quality of feed (ii) increasing heat stress (iii) changes to and spread of livestock diseases and (iv) changes in water availability.

FF: Is climate change affecting Uganda’s economy?

LBS: Yes. The National Development Plan 2010-2015 on climatic projections indicates that Uganda’s temperatures are likely to increase in the range of 0.70 C to 1.50 C by 2020. As a consequence, it has placed Uganda in a more vulnerable position. The 2nd UN World Water Development Report 2006 shows that 70 per cent of the disasters in the country are linked to climate change. On average these disasters destroy about 800,000 hectares of crops, with an economic loss in excess of Ushs 120 billion (US$ 63.2million) per year.

Climate change and associated extreme weather incidents have also impacted public health. The 1994 El Niño floods resulted in sharp rises in lakes, wide spread flooding, and extensive soil erosion and landslides in Eastern parts of the country. It’s believed that more than 1,000 lives were lost and 11,000 hospitalised due to cholera and related illness, and about 150,000 people were displaced from their homes.

Meanwhile, the 2010-2011 droughts caused an estimated US$470 million losses in food crops, cash crops and livestock as a whole. This equates to about 16 per cent of the total value of these items in GDP for 2011. The current and future increased risks from flooding and droughts are in areas of existing poverty and therefore these events have serious consequences for local economies and food security.

FF: Are there any tools and technologies that are helping Ugandan farmers to adapt to climate change?

LBS: Yes, they are using more efficient water-management technologies such as advanced drip irrigation and solar irrigation. Agricultural research is also developing other new and effective approaches to adapt to climate change. For example, scientists are studying and using beneficial microbes from soil to strengthen plant resilience to increased drought, diseases and pests brought on by climate change.

Farmers are also actively participating in the collection of climate-related data. The information from millions of smallholders farmers monitoring daily weather changes, rainfall levels and patterns and soil health are shedding light on general climate trends and guiding farming practices.

Lastly, farmers are being advised not to plant on farm land with clogged water and for farmers living in mountainous areas, they are advised to practice terracing and lay farrows to reduce run offs from heavy rains

FF: What are the barriers preventing farmers from accessing these tools and technologies?

LBS: The ability of farmers’ to adapt varies enormously depending on the region and its wealth. Uganda’s farmers often lack basic resources and choices such as money as the adoption of these methods is difficult without access to credit and readily available funds. Millions of farmers in Uganda also lack access to information about the scope of climate level changes they are experiencing. Without such information, they are unable to plan and adjust their farming practices to be sustainable for the long term with new tools and technologies. Social networks among rural farmers always help spread the use of new technology, given the prevelant communal sense among Ugandan farmers. Finally, differences in expected returns from a new technology also affect individual’s adaptation decisions.

FF: Have you met many farmers that are struggling with successfully adapting to climate change?

LBS: In many Ugandan villages, smallholder farmers are struggling to use simple technologies to monitor extreme weather and its impacts on their families and community. They are finding it difficult to detect early indications of changing rainfall patterns that would likely effect the growing season. Secondly, farmers are struggling with how to identify and manage the planting of drought-tolerant crop varieties, exotic breeds and using low cost, simple drip irrigation due to illiteracy and cost management practices.

FF: How is the Ugandan government supporting farmers to adapt to climate change?

LBS: The government of Uganda has come up with priorities for adaptation options. In the National Climate Change Costed Implementation Strategy, the government of Uganda has identified eight strategic interventions for adaptation in the agricultural sector, with a proposed budget over the next 15 years of about US$297 million (MWE, 2012). Among these interventions are the promotion of adaptive crop varieties and livestock breeds, sustainable land management and agricultural diversification.

The government’s meteorological agency, UNMA, has provided and disseminated weather information and forecasts. Farmers are therefore advised to rely on expert advice as to when they should plant for the most favourable climate conditions. The government has also embarked on farmer sensitization and awareness campaigns. For example, experts have promoted the planting of grass on the steps of mountains among farmers living on the slopes of Mountain Elgon in Eastern Uganda and those from Mountain Rwenzori to stop run-offs from heavy rains.

Finally, farmers are being advised to grow quick maturing crops such as vegetables when there is a prediction of prolonged dry spells, and they are further advised to grow cereal crops which are tolerant to drought. NGOs are also helping the government through promotion of new agricultural technologies such as agricultural extension services, which provide farmers with information about agricultural practises, including sowing, adoption of improved seeds and chicken breeds.

FF: Do you think COP22 was indeed a ‘’COP of Action’’?

LBS: Yes, thanks to the Marrakech Proclamation of Climate Action and the Partnership for Global Climate Action as the conference’s main outcomes. The political commitment to implementing the Paris Agreement has been revived in the most ardent fashion with the Marrakech Proclamation.

Writing the rule book, or operational manual, of the Paris Agreement calls for a significant boost of transparency of action, including measuring and accounting emissions reductions, the provision of climate finance, and technology development and transfer. It also includes work to design the adaptation communications, which is the primary vehicle under the Paris Agreement to share individual adaptation efforts and support needs.

FF: What action do you think the global community should be taking?

LBS: Governments should initiate powerful coalitions of public and private partners in technology initiatives for weather. About two thirds of Africans now have mobile phones, including many in rural areas, and these could play an integral part in the collection of weather and soil data. Data collected by farmers on their phones could then be aggregated and analysed by designated research institutions and shared with farmers.

Local governments could also adjust disaster response plans to accommodate changes in weather patterns. For example, the city of Philadelphia recently implemented an emergency response plan to limit the health impact of increasingly frequent heat waves on its population. Philadelphia officials estimate that their heat response plan has already reduced heat-related deaths.

For individuals, governments, and businesses, adapting to climate change requires understanding and accepting the risks of regional climate change, assessing the immediate and long-term costs and benefits of adaptation strategies, and implementing adaptations that bring the most benefits relative to the cost and risk.

Featured image courtesy of Kate Holt/Africa Practice