Climate-smart models best bet to end hunger

The impact of climate change on crop, livestock and fisheries systems in Africa is evidently overwhelming yet we must produce more food for the growing population.

Climate-smart agriculture (CSA) can help countries and communities adapt to the impacts of climate change, while sustainably increasing productivity, and delivering co-benefits of reducing/removing GHGs for environmental sustainability, nutrition and livelihoods.

Sustainable goals

The CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) suggests ten CSA innovations that can help the sector step up to the challenges posed by climate change.

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The innovations are useful in achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goal-2 of ending hunger, achieving food security and improved nutrition, and promoting sustainable agriculture.

The first innovation involves agroforestry to diversify farms and enhance resilience.

Agroforestry involves the integration and use of trees in crop fields, farms and across agricultural landscapes.

Trees buffer climate change impacts and variability and diversify land use and farming systems, providing additional livelihood and environmental benefits not delivered through land management without trees.

Secondly, the farming of fish and other aquatic products in an innovation that enhances nutrition and diversify incomes.

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Fish farming can increase farmers’ adaptive capacity by providing an alternative supply of fish to depleted wild fisheries, as well as an additional nutrient rich and widely accepted animal food for homestead consumption and sales.

Fish ponds on smallholder farms help diversify income for farmers and thus enable them to increase resilience in the face of shocks.

The use of stress tolerant varieties to counter climate change is the third innovation.

Climate change affects the yield of crops through increased exposure to high temperature, water stress, flooding, diseases, pests and salinity.

Use of crop varieties that have increased tolerance to climatic stresses increase smallholder farmers resilience to climate change.

Stress tolerant varieties

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These benefits come about by either increasing the physiological resilience to climatic extremes or the use of early-maturing varieties that allow cropping calendars to be adjusted to cope with seasonally unfavourable conditions.

The fourth innovation involves improving smallholder dairy production. The interventions could include improved feed and forage management, breeding for heat tolerance, and efforts to improve animal health.

Due to the high consumption of rice, the fifth innovation targets rice production through alternate wetting and drying.

The practice helps rice farmers become more resilient and reduces emissions.

It is suitable for irrigated rice systems and involves periodic drying of the field by suspending irrigation for several days.

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Fields are irrigated again once the first small soil cracks are visible so that there will be enough water available for the rice plants.

Use of solar irrigation is the sixth innovation. Irrigation can help millions of smallholder farmers intensively cultivate their small parcels to improve income and better cope with climate induced uncertainties.

Solar irrigation is more affordable, useful for both groundwater and surface flooding without threatening resource sustainability and minimising its environmental footprint.

Digital agriculture

The seventh innovation is utilisation of digital agriculture.

This encompasses an array of technologies, channels, and analytic capabilities that are being applied to make farming more precise, productive, and profitable.

These technologies tend to be applied with the goal of increasing productivity per unit of land, and they can be a natural complement to climate services and other services e.g. credit offered through digital platforms.

The use of climate-informed advisories is the eighth innovation.

Climate services involve the generation, translation, communication and use of climate knowledge and information in climate-informed decision making, policy and planning.

By reducing uncertainty, climate information and advisories enable farmers to better anticipate and manage adverse climatic conditions, take advantage of favourable conditions, and adapt to change.

Use of weather index-based agricultural insurance is the ninth innovation.

Agricultural insurance normally relies on direct measurement of the damage that each farmer suffers. Index-based insurance, on the other hand, is a feasible alternative.

Pay-outs are triggered not by observed crop losses, but rather when an index – such as rainfall or average yield – falls above or below a prespecified threshold.

Insurers can automate pay-outs and make them quickly.

This lowers administrative costs and premiums compared with conventional crop insurance.

Individual farmers can purchase insurance or groups, can also purchase the insurance for farmers.

The tenth innovation is scaling up financing for climate change adaptation in agriculture.

The success of adaptation actions in agriculture rely not only on technological innovations, but supporting institutional, policy, and investment environments, which can help innovations reach scale rapidly.

New, fit-for-purpose business and financial models are an area for innovation to support scaling up of proven technological innovations.

There is need for stepping up the CSA campaign by national and county governments, research and development partners, the private sector and community groups.

At recent “Climate Resilient Agribusiness for Tomorrow” workshops organised by the SNV Netherlands Development Organisation, it was observed that time is ripe for CSA knowledge to be disseminated to small scale farmers for food and nutrition security.

Mr Recha (PhD) is a Research Scientist at The CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) [email protected]

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Climate ChangeAgroforestry