Talking About What it Means to be Climate-Smart

Unpacking the concept of climate-smart agriculture was the topic of a side event today at COP19 in Warsaw, jointly held by the Rome-based United Nations agencies the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP).

Climate-smart agriculture is an aggregate of three main pillars: sustainably increasing production, enabling adaptation and reducing greenhouse gas emissions said the panelists.

Transferring climate-smart into praxis is a priority of these organizations, given that the IPCC estimates that agriculture (including land use change and deforestation) accounts for between 20 and 30 per cent of global emissions.

“Climate change is a cross cutting issue,” said Wendy Mann of FAO, therefore implementation of climate friendly technologies and practices depends upon cooperation across departments to benefit from the full strength and commitment of government.

Similarly, climate-smart approaches identify possible synergies with primary sectors (agriculture, livestock, forestry and fisheries) and other sectors (energy, water, waste) to reach a critical mass in rural areas.

“When looking to get the most impact out of climate finance, it’s best to integrate climate risk analysis early in project planning,” said IFAD’s Gernot Laganda. “Experience with the Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme (ASAP) also tells us that grant financing allows small farmers to adopt more sustainable production, which otherwise would be considered too risky.”

Small farmers can abandon even the best-laid adaptation plans, if local political and social conditions are barriers to change. This was the case with one FAO project in Zambia, where low uptake of conservation agriculture was attributed to insecure land tenure.

The panel also presented successful activities, such as a tree coppicing initiative by World Vision Australia that has changed how thousands of farmers in West Africa manage their land, thereby helping to rehabilitate the landscape.

These types of interventions show that pragmatic solutions are the ones most suitable to dealing with the unpredictability of climate change; and that the concept of climate-smart agriculture is firmly rooted in practice.