Finding the right mix of climate-smart solutions in East Africa

June 12, 2014
by Melissa Reichwage

@IFAD/Siegfried Modola
Farming systems that integrate crops with livestock carry much of the weight of the world’s food systems. These “mixed” farming systems produce about half of the planet’s food on 2.5 billion hectares. They not only account for over 90% of the world’s milk supply and 80% of the meat from ruminants but also provide most of the staple crops consumed by poor people, including maize, rice, sorghum, and millet.

Given their importance and vulnerability to climate variability, smallholder mixed crop-livestock systems should be a primary target for strategies to produce more food while taking less from the land.

Climate change is happening even faster and with more damaging effects on the world’s food security than previously anticipated, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world’s most authoritative body on climate change science.

Agricultural research for development can make a big difference at every step from field to fork by, for example, providing new strategies that help smallholder farmers balance the needs of livestock and crops or by encouraging and guiding investments and policy. Scientists have identified a number of adaptation options: including better technologies, such as drought-tolerant crops; behavior changes, as in diets; improved land management practices; and new policies to foster market and infrastructure development.


One of the biggest challenges in implementing climate-smart agriculture is ensuring that solutions are locally appropriate. “Dozens of activities can help crop-livestock farmers adapt to climate change or reduce their emissions, while boosting their food security. But there is no fixed package of interventions or a one-size-fits-all approach,” said Leigh Winowiecki, a CIAT soil scientist, who is working on the project.

By linking social and ecological tools and datasets, CIAT and partners are identifying and scaling out context-specific strategies for climate-smart agriculture.

The “Increasing food security and farming system resilience in East Africa through wide-scale adoption of climate-smart agricultural practices” project led by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), through the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), specifically its Flagship 4 on policies and institutions for climate-resilient food systems, is being supported by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

Over the next 3 years, the project will work closely with IFAD and national and international partners in Tanzania and Uganda to scale up climate-smart options. An assessment of the impacts and suitability of these options at the local level will help mixed system smallholders, especially women and marginalized groups, make better choices about a number of practices and techniques on offer, based on their real needs. The innovative approach includes spatially explicit monitoring and modeling of land health and agronomic suitability, and on-farm participatory research to ensure the success of the practices on the ground.

By working with farmers and local, regional, national, and international partners to mix and match the most locally appropriate solutions, climate-smart agriculture is becoming a bit smarter.

Learn more about CIAT’s partnership with IFAD in the Stewardship Report outlining our shared vision of a world without poverty and hunger.

Originally posted on CIAT website