Making Climate-Smart “The New Normal in Agriculture"

by Jeff Brez in Durban

Anticipation is building that sectoral text under the LCA may lead to the approval by the Parties of a work programme under SBSTA for agriculture here in Durban. The demand on the ground from farmers communities and governments for climate-smart agriculture as a means to tackle poverty reduction, food security, climate resilience, improved environmental outcomes and reduced emissions is already strong and continues to grow. Many feel that a SBSTA Work Programme would help agriculture take early action to determine the long-term investments needed to transform agriculture to meet future challenges.

Tina Joemat-Pettersson, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of South Africa, opened the Agriculture and Rural Development Day, this past Saturday, and told journalists, “Agriculture must adapt to a changing climate and at the same time contribute to reducing emissions. We have a huge dichotomy between smallholder and large-scale farming, but… smallholder farming is now also being seen as an opportunity for food security as well as economic growth… not just as a social development programme.”

Governments and development institutions, including IFAD, the World Bank, FAO, and others together with other partners have made great strides in promoting climate-smart approaches that meet the needs of farmers and poor rural people. There is also a call for climate finance to benefit smallholders and the rural poor – where poverty is concentrated – through both adaptation and mitigation financing. It is hoped that the Green Climate Fund, in this sense, will prioritize financing for approaches that reward “multiple benefit outcomes” (aka “co-benefits” in negotiation language): poverty reduction, food security, climate resilience and emissions reductions through climate-smart agriculture.

Kanayo F. Nwanze, President of IFAD, The U.N.’s rural poverty agency, delivered a keynote address at ARDD urging negotiators to recognize that “Government officials once believed that they had to choose between feeding their people and protecting nature. Now they realize that they can and must do both.” He continued, “negotiators need to recognize the critical importance of enabling smallholder farmers to become more resilient to climate change and to grow more food in environmentally sustainable, climate-smart ways,” he added.

The world’s 500 million smallholder farms will have to significantly increase their production and will have to do it in the face of more frequent extreme weather events and shifting weather conditions brought by climate change. The development community must continue its efforts to come together with governments to make climate smart practices the new normal in agriculture

“Out in their fields, farmers are already adapting to the changing climate and realizing that they must respect and preserve the environment if they are to feed their families and produce a surplus for markets,” Nwanze said. “And policymakers at the country level are citing the impact of extreme weather on their crop production and asking for climate change to be addressed in rural development projects.”

Simple maths draws the connection between climate change poverty reduction and agriculture into stark relief. 1.4 billion people live today in extreme poverty, under US$1.25 per day. One billion of them live in rural areas, and the majority of those depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. IFAD’s experience with climate smart agriculture in 40 countries, through 22 loans and 15 country-specific and regional grants is just one testament to this.