Stories tagged: sustainability

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:

Farming to feed future populations: eight steps to ensure sustainable food production

Earlier this year, we interviewed Dr. Jason Clay, Senior Vice-President of Markets at WWF, for Farming First TV. In his interview he talked to us about food security and the need for sustainability in food production – you can watch the interview here.

In his interview, he stressed that we will have to figure out how to reduce the impact of producing food, such as deforestation and water consumption.

In his recent article in Nature, Dr. Clay identified eight steps that, if they were all implemented, could enable farming to feed ten billion people in a sustainable manner. In his article, he talks about eight ‘wedges’, which need to be overcome to ensure maximum efficiency, and applies these to Africa.

These ‘wedges’ are:

–       Genetics. Ten crops account for 70-80 per cent of all calories consumed globally. Dr. Clay is “convinced that to increase production, we can’t afford to ignore genetics” and believes that the genomes of staple African crops, such as yams and cassava, should be mapped as a first step to doubling or tripling their productivity.

–       Better practices. For every crop, the best producers globally are 100 times more productive than the worst. Dr. Clay stresses that it takes too long for better practices to be passed along within the farming community in Africa. Technology such as mobile phones can help farmers connect to shared information hubs.

–       Efficiency through technology. Dr. Clay says we need to double the efficiency of every agricultural input, including water, pesticides and energy. There are technologies which can do this, but in Africa, many technologies are two or three generations behind those used elsewhere.

–       Degraded land. Rather than concentrating on farming in new areas, Dr. Clay says that we need to rehabilitate degraded, abandoned or underperforming lands; we should be rehabilitating 100 million hectares by 2030. Most farmland in Africa has been degraded over the past century, but this can be reversed through planting trees and grasses.

–       Property rights. Dr. Clay stresses that the lack of clear property rights is a significant barrier to food security in Africa; how many farmers will invest in land they don’t own? By 2020, according to Dr. Clay we should be aiming for fifty per cent of African households to have a title to the lands they cultivate.

–       Waste. Globally, we waste 30-40 per cent of all food produced, or one in three calories. Dr. Clay claims that if we could eliminate waste, we would halve the amount of new food needed by 2050. In rich nations individuals and institutions waste food, but in countries such as Africa most food waste results from post-harvest losses and lack of infrastructure. The goal in Africa should be to halve post-harvest waste in half by 2030.

–       Consumption. One billion people globally don’t have enough food, yet one billion eat too much. Both of these figures need to be halved by 2030, according to Dr. Clay, with the most urgent focus on those with not enough to eat.

–       Carbon. Soil carbon, or organic matter, is key to conserving farmland for future generations. The single best measure of rehabilitated soil is increasing organic matter from less than 0.5 per cent to two per cent or more; however, half of the world’s top soil (in which the most carbon resides) has been lost in the last 150 years. Carbon markets for agriculture need to be introduced, with a goal of food producers selling 1 billion metric tonnes per year by 2030.

In his article, Dr. Clay says that developing regions will bear the heaviest burden if these steps are not implemented; therefore it is in these regions that solutions should be applied first.