At climate summit in Washington, IFAD calls for increased support for smallholder farmers

By Margarita Astralaga

Ruben Ussico, aged 69, cultivates maize and pumpkins in Gaza, Mozambique. Many farmers are being impacted
 by droughts that last longer than a single season, about rising sea levels and flash floods.

On the occasion of the Climate Action Summit 2016, the International Fund for Agricultural Development welcomes the Paris agreement and sees its adoption as a watershed moment in the fight against climate change. Indeed, the international community has made considerable breakthroughs pursuing effective diplomacy and cooperation. We now look toward the real challenge ahead, which is the implementation of the commitments made in Paris.

At IFAD, we believe that agriculture is a sector that holds the key to addressing the complex problem of climate change. We also believe that smallholder farmers are the agents that can transform agriculture and make it part of the solution. There are 500 million smallholder farms in the world; and over 2 billion people depend on small farms for their livelihoods. Many of these farms are located in fragile and marginal areas, such as dry lands, flood plains or hillsides.

As the global climate changes, we hear more reports from smallholders about rains coming unexpectedly, about droughts that last longer than a single season, about rising sea levels and flash floods. All of these phenomena threaten how we practice agriculture. They threaten the very basis of our civilization.

Making climate finance work for poor rural people

Smallholder farmers not only need our help, they most certainly merit it. When smallholders have better access to weather information, a more diversified asset base, and are better connected with institutional and financial networks, they can help us feed a growing planet. At the same time, they can help restore degraded ecosystems, increase the resilience of value chains, and reduce agriculture’s carbon footprint.

Much of this thinking has fed into IFAD’s Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme, or ‘ASAP’, which we launched in 2012. ASAP is IFAD’s flagship programme to make climate finance work for poor rural households in developing countries. With its financing of US$360 million, ASAP is now the world’s largest adaptation programme for smallholders.

Delivering timely climate information to smallholders

As a means of scaling up ambitious action on climate change, IFAD is aligning its country strategies and project investments with our member states’ intended nationally determined contributions,  or ‘INDCs’.

To date, 65 per cent of INDCs have defined agriculture as a priority for adaptation actions, and 77 per cent have defined it as a priority for mitigation actions. This sends a positive signal that countries support better resilience for smallholders on the ground, and stronger policy engagement at the local and national level to implement greener farming practices. Through its investment activities, IFAD is already putting INDCs into action.

Many ASAP-supported projects have a strong focus on improving weather forecasts and delivering timely climate information to smallholders. They build the capacity of cooperatives, women’s groups and extension services to apply climate-smart technologies, such as biogas, solar pumping or drought-resistant crop varieties. And they invest in climate-resilient infrastructure such as all-weather roads and post-harvest storage houses, to name a few.

Through these projects, IFAD is helping to make the agricultural sector in over 50 countries more resilient to climate change and reduce its carbon footprint. We have also committed to an ambitious plan to mainstream climate change aspects into all new investments activities by 2018.

IFAD believes it can play a unique role in harnessing the full potential of climate finance to safeguard smallholders’ livelihoods and empower them to contribute to effective climate action. We look forward to adding these contributions to the efforts of the wider United Nations system.

Margarita Astralaga is the Director of the Environment and Climate Division at IFAD.