How can Climate-Smart Agriculture enhance Food Security and Community Based Adaptation?

By Estibalitz Morras (IFAD) and Catherine Mungai (CCFAS)

We have just returned from Nairobi, where we attended the 9th International Conference on Community-Based Adaptation (CBA9). IFAD co-facilitated one session on Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) to achieve food security, increase resilience and enhance community based adaptation globally.

©IFAD/Estibalitz Morras

CSA is an approach that supports the more efficient use of resources; with less food losses and promotes a shifts towards more resilient smallholder farming systems. It links a scientific approach with traditional knowledge in order to create a sustainable food-secure population and enhance local capacity to adapt to climate change. CSA also has the potential to address some of the mistakes and shortcomings of conventional social and economic development that have contributed to social inequality, poverty and environmental degradation.

“CSA is often linked to new technologies that deliver an immediate boost to productivity or instantly show adaptation benefits – however this idea often bypasses smallholders, or has only short-term benefits,” said  Chris Henderson from Practical Action . “This is why we need to ensure CSA is relevant to Community Based Adaptation (CBA), especially to marginalized and smallholder farmers.”

In that regard, the technologies and approaches need to be: i) accessible; ii) sustainably used and iii) innovative, building on the wealth of local, traditional and indigenous knowledge and experience. Practical Action believes in helping small-scale farmers through technology to enable poor communities to build on their skills and knowledge to produce sustainable and practical solutions.

Integrating Local and Indigenous Knowledge

Based on his experience working in the Mekong Delta, through the Project for Adaptation to Climate Change in the Mekong Delta (AMD), Pham Vu Bang (IFAD Vietnam) called for the recognition and respect of local knowledge and involvement of community members in planning. This is the approach applied in the ADM projects supported by the  Adaptation for Smallholder Programme (ASAP) of IFAD.

©IFAD/Ilaria Firmian

Bang made the point that; to enhance the resilience capacity of rural poor communities, it is agreed that we should let vulnerable groups and communities decide the best way for them to cope with the impact of climate change. New technologies is certainly a part of the solution, but should link to indigenous knowledge and farming systems to promote biodiversity and culture.

The importance of incorporating local knowledge into CSA was further elaborated by John Mbaria from Kenya’s Nation Media Group  who recommended the documentation and sharing of such knowledge and the integration of traditional norms and practices into local government and national policy processes.

Lucia Zigiriza works in the ASAP-supported project  Post-Harvest and Agribusiness Support Project (PASP)” in Rwanda. She said that communities in Rwanda are involved in the planning and monitoring of land restoration, which feeds in to the National Strategy on Climate Change. Farmers are organized in cooperatives which monitor and share information. The project distributes climate information services to farmers such as weather forecasts.  PASP is also going to provide climate resilient storage facilities. Additionally the project creates access to solar driers, biogas fueled grain driers, and hermetic storage bags.

Monitoring and Up-scaling CSA

Monitoring CSA should not be about the rate or success of technology transfer – e.g. the uptake of new ‘adapted’ or ‘improved’ varieties. It should be about measuring the capacity of farmers and communities to identify, develop and use different agricultural practices.

Vijayasankaran from Samaj Pragati Sahayog in India pointed out that CSA is a holistic approach that requires multi-pronged investment and a multi-disciplinary approach towards participatory research. Water is the key to enhancing resilience of production systems to climate variability and climate change. Hence, public investment in water, especially low-cost solutions which could be taken up by smallholder farmers, lies at the core of CSA. While the role of private sector investments need to be emphasised, we need to recognise that scaling up of small, scattered initiatives on CSA is not possible without incorporating these into national government programmes with substantial investments sustained over a period of time.  

As a way forward, participants called for the up-scaling of successful climate-smart practices and services. This will entail a careful assessment of the barriers to the uptake of these practices by local vulnerable communities. Also, as mentioned by Caitlin Corner-Dolloff from the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) governments, with support from non-governmental organizations, international agencies and research institutions, need to establish enabling environments, including incentives, to support community based adaptation through climate-smart agriculture. The pitfalls of existing programmes for food security and climate change resilience could be addressed by recognizing the vital role of CSA in ensuring access to and sustainable use of innovative solutions by smallholder farmers.  

For more information please see CBA9 session interview: James Kinyangi:
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the panellists from the Session 11 of the 9th International Conference on Community-Based Adaptation (CBA9).