Climate change is one of humanity’s biggest challenges today, and agriculture is both a victim and a contributor to this global crisis. With changing weather patterns, extreme weather events, and rising temperatures impacting crop yields and livestock production, farmers are among the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. However, with the right tools and practices, agriculture can also play a key role in mitigating its impacts.

Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) is a practice that aims to address the interlinked challenges of food security and climate change. It can help farmers worldwide to prepare for the future by increasing productivity, enhancing resilience, and reducing emissions.

Agriculture is both a victim and a contributor to climate change. On the one hand, the sector is one of the most vulnerable to the increasing pace of climate change, with changing weather patterns, extreme weather events, and rising temperatures directly impacting crop yields and livestock production. On the other hand, agriculture is responsible for a significant share of greenhouse gas emissions, which contributes to the problem.

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the global food system is responsible for over one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions. This means the agricultural sector has a unique relationship with the environment, requiring urgent attention and action.

This is where Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA) comes in as a saviour and offers solutions to many unaddressed global challenges.

CSA is an integrated approach to managing landscapes, including crops, livestock, forests, and fisheries, which addresses the interlinked challenges of food security and climate change. It aims to achieve several important goals simultaneously, such as increased productivity in agriculture, enhanced resilience to weather events, carbon sequestration, and reduced emissions. Enabled by technology, digitization, and data, CSA provides a comprehensive, environment-friendly approach to farming.

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Empowering global farmers to be aware of environmental concerns and their impact on farming is crucial to the success of CSA. Farmers need to understand the risks and opportunities of climate change and the actions they can take to adapt and mitigate its impacts. This requires access to information, training, and tools that enable them to make informed decisions about their farming practices.

Remember, out of the 600 million global farms, a majority are smallholder farmers from Asia, Africa, and South America. Any attempt to drive sustainability and climate resilience in the global food system without covering this whopping population will be meaningless.

Achieving the Triple Win of Climate-smart agriculture

Climate-smart agriculture (CSA) is an integrated approach to managing landscapes—cropland, livestock, forests and fisheries—that addresses the interlinked challenges of food security and accelerating climate change. CSA aims to simultaneously achieve three outcomes:

1.    Increased productivity: Produce more and better food to improve nutrition security and boost incomes, especially of 75 percent of the world’s poor who live in rural areas and mainly rely on agriculture for their livelihoods.

2.    Enhanced resilience: Reduce vulnerability to drought, pests, diseases and other climate-related risks and shocks; and improve capacity to adapt and grow in the face of longer-term stresses like shortened seasons and erratic weather patterns.

3.    Reduced emissions: Pursue lower emissions for each calorie or kilo of food produced, avoid deforestation from agriculture and identify ways to absorb carbon out of the atmosphere.

While built on existing knowledge, technologies, and principles of sustainable agriculture, CSA is distinct in several ways. First, it has an explicit focus on addressing climate change. Second, CSA systematically considers the synergies and tradeoffs that exist between productivity, adaptation and mitigation. Finally, CSA aims to capture new funding opportunities to close the deficit in investment.

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Achieving the Triple Win of Climate-smart agriculture

While we cannot control natural disasters overnight, it is certainly possible to prepare our farmers, governments, and agribusinesses to address them in a better way.

Traditional agricultural methods fail as unpredictable weather and atmospheric conditions disrupt water availability, crop growth, agriculture productivity, and yield, as well as farmer income. To tackle these challenges, a host of globally proven CSA packages of practices are readily available in the market. For example, precision agriculture technologies supported by sensors, satellite monitoring, drones, and artificial intelligence (AI) applications, can help farmers optimise their water use, fertilisers, and pesticides, reducing inputs and greenhouse gas emissions.

Soil conditions, water resource availability, and weather conditions are constantly monitored, helping farmers to choose climate-resilient crops during extreme weather conditions. Regenerative and conservation-oriented agricultural practices, such as minimum tillage, crop rotation, and cover cropping, can improve soil health, increase carbon sequestration, and reduce erosion. CSA applications help farmers select the right crops and seeds as well as the right time for sowing and harvesting and support them in the adoption of the best farming practices suited for their region.

Using real-time data from satellite imagery and in-field devices, smart farming solutions help farmers identify over-or under-irrigated areas and take adequate measures to manage optimal irrigation schedules, resulting in higher yield and quality while reducing costs.

In Kenya, the objective of the Climate Smart Agriculture Project is to increase agricultural productivity and build resilience to climate-change risks in smallholder farming and pastoral communities. This is done by scaling up climate-smart agricultural practices, strengthening climate-smart agricultural research and seed systems, and supporting agrometeorological, market, climate, and advisory services.

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