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Guiding decision making in agriculture for a triple-win

Posted by Ricci Symons Wednesday, August 17, 2016

A CIAT blog originally posted here

When this study called for policy makers to set realistic targets towards meeting the Paris climate agreement some weeks back, authors were calling for real milestones to measure global progress.
But action towards specific emission targets can’t happen without guidance on what change needs to happen and where. To that end, this new study outlines a methodology tried and tested within communities. It’s called the “Climate smart agriculture rapid appraisal” tool.

This tool can feed directly into pledges made by individual countries towards the Paris agreement.

It delves into social, cultural, economic and environmental contexts to present farmers – and decision makers – with exactly this: what CSA options work to meet a triple-win, increasing productivity; enhancing resilience and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, where, and why.
It’s designed to bring solutions which can feed directly into pledges made by individual countries in the Paris agreement. And, it can feed into national mitigation and adaptation programs across Africa as well.

Terraces in Lushoto Tanzania help conserve the soil.
The tool rates a list of context-specific agricultural practices which farmers use on their farm.

Ground-up targets

Focusing on two case studies in Uganda and Tanzania, the methodology provides a step-by-step guide for researchers or development organizations to present farmers with options which address the three pillars of Climate-Smart Agriculture: improved food security, adaptation and mitigation.
How? The “Rapid appraisal” tool, essentially rates a list of context-specific agricultural practices which farmers use on their farm and which boost harvests, but also lower carbon footprints and strengthen farms against the impacts of climate change in future.


“Getting the ‘ground-up’ viewpoint from farmers is vital – after-all, they are the ones to implement the practices towards targets”. 
Caroline Mwongera
Farming Systems and Climate Change specialist , CIAT
Farming systems are complex, and they differ widely across Africa. There is no solution that will fit every ecosystem; every community; every farm.
So getting the “ground-up” viewpoint from farmers is vital – after-all, they are the ones to implement the practices towards targets.
Central to the methodology is getting ideas from farmers themselves about which practices work on their farms; which new practices they might adopt in future; why and how might they work out? These “best” options – are also culturally aware, gender appropriate and likely to be adopted.

At the same time, the practices need to be realistic and scientifically sound. And they need to be part of national planning and policy, so input is needed from different stakeholders – like local-level agricultural experts, district-level extension agents, private companies, donor organizations, and policy makers – to ensure the options are practical at different levels.
The process of including both quantitative and qualitative inputs into the tool, is what separates this methodology from others. Most take one approach or the other.

From crop and climate calendars to resource mapping

To find site-specific solutions, every aspect of agriculture on the farm is rigorously analyzed through the methodology. What time of month are seeds sown? Which month are crops harvested, and who is responsible for harvesting – men or women? How will the new technology impact different social groups?
The process of investigating these questions brings to light some interesting issues. For example: imagine for a minute you don’t have internet access. You are in the field for the whole day and you’re busy. What’s the best way to reach you with an important message?
This is a question which plagues researchers, as they look for ways to get information about climate change to farmers. This methodology puts the conundrum to farmers, to find out which shops farmers frequent most, which organizations they are part of – to find places where farmers can easily be targeted with information – about drought-resilient beans, for example.


Flow of information from farmers to policy makers
Using crop and climate calendars, the methodology also aims to identify practices which are appropriate and fit within the context of the on-farm social fabric. A farmer can’t reduce the impact of a dry spell on her cattle if she can’t get water from the river for example – and she might not be able to get access to the river for a whole host of social or other reasons.
Interestingly, farmers also perceive seasons in a different way depending on things like access to resources. For example, the farmer who can’t access the river might rate a season much drier than someone who can easily water their cattle.
The report makes clear that the tool is rather a process that gathers information from stakeholders, which include smallholder farmers and groups, to guide investments at national level and build in community resilience and productivity at farm level.
The options which come up as a result of this process will not only improve food security, but also help farmers improve their lives and the environment for a triple-win.

Flow of information from farmers to policy makers

Using crop and climate calendars, the methodology also aims to identify practices which are appropriate and fit within the context of the on-farm social fabric. A farmer can’t reduce the impact of a dry spell on her cattle if she can’t get water from the river for example – and she might not be able to get access to the river for a whole host of social or other reasons.
Interestingly, farmers also perceive seasons in a different way depending on things like access to resources. For example, the farmer who can’t access the river might rate a season much drier than someone who can easily water their cattle.
The report makes clear that the tool is rather a process that gathers information from stakeholders, which include smallholder farmers and groups, to guide investments at national level and build in community resilience and productivity at farm level.
The options which come up as a result of this process will not only improve food security, but also help farmers improve their lives and the environment for a triple-win.

Call to action:

  • Locally appropriate actions can be prioritized anywhere, to identify investment opportunities linked to local and national priorities and enhance adoption of CSA technologies to cope with increasing climate change impacts.
  • Decision making on climate change adaptation and mitigation investment often focus on top-down approaches. Rather, this process should be participatory, aligning with stakeholder desires and contextual realities – this methodology does that.
  • CSA prioritization can be used by all development practitioners to identify best-bet CSA investment options that help achieve food security, increase resilience to climate change, and promote the development of a low-emissions agriculture.
This research is carried out with support from the International Fund for Agricultural Development.

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