Dossier

Climate-smart agriculture

As the impacts of climate change increasingly threaten global food security, initiatives aiming to scale out the adoption of climate-adapted agricultural practices are beginning to gain ground. 

Dr Nkulumo Zinyengere is project manager and research lead at SouthSouthNorth, which manages Climate and Development Knowledge Network’s (CDKN) Africa programme © Nkulumo Zinyengere
Dr Nkulumo Zinyengere is project manager and research lead at SouthSouthNorth, which manages Climate and Development Knowledge Network’s (CDKN) Africa programme © Nkulumo Zinyengere

Tuesday, 08 August 2017

Dr Nkulumo Zinyengere explains the primary challenges of implementing climate smart agriculture (CSA) in Southern Africa and the key players that can help to overcome them.

What are the key opportunities for promoting CSA, and scaling up and out solutions so that they reach smallholders? 

The urgency of the climate threat to agriculture requires a push for the scaling up and out of demonstrably promising CSA solutions, a process which can be sped up through: 

Raising awareness about climate change and the usefulness of practising CSA. This should shape early intervention as there cannot be decisive and directed climate smart adaptation efforts without awareness and confidence in CSA. Awareness raising can also lead to mind-set changes that are necessary to overcome lingering cultural barriers that continue to stand in the way of widespread uptake of CSA technologies and methods. 

Improving accessibility and affordability of inputs and technologies to ensure that farmers are able to easily put CSA practices into use. This includes providing subsidies, removing or reducing import duty on key inputs and technologies, improving transport and communication, as well as access to financing and credit. 

Raising the profile of women and marginalised farming communities will remove barriers that stem largely from customary gender roles, while also improving the organisation of women and marginalised communities at large. This will improve their access to land, education, extension services, political and decision-making processes, etc., which are all enablers of successfully transitioning to CSA systems.  

CTA’s new Southern Africa Flagship Project, will focus on providing ICT-enabled climate information services. What is the role of climate information and related technologies in supporting CSA? 

Information is a powerful tool for change and enhanced adaptation to climate change in agriculture.  Yet, farmers in Southern Africa either don’t have access to climate and agricultural information, or it is inappropriate, ill-timed, or not packaged for easy understanding and use. Information provided through various channels, such as radio, television, and mobile phones will improve farmers’ responses – for instance, their timing of farming activities (e.g. planting and application of inputs) – and improve access to markets for the best prices for their produce, inputs, etc. This in turn will enable the improved productivity and profitability of farmers, thereby strengthening their resilience.  

How can policymakers and institutions better support CSA in Southern Africa? 

The policy environment in most Southern African countries does not presently encourage farmers to easily take up CSA interventions. For example, land tenure systems discourage investments required for long-term adaption. Furthermore, inappropriate policies and weak institutions regularly lead to the adoption of unsustainable farming practices. Policymakers need to support CSA through deliberate, consistent and stable pro-sustainability policies, remove inefficient bureaucracies and integrate climate change adaptation within national development agendas.  

Through the institution of CSA-supportive governmental structures, policymakers can support CSA by enabling the smooth operation of extension services, financing and credit facilities, equitable resource allocation (e.g. land), and the protection of women’s and marginalised farmers’ rights. Furthermore, it is important for policymakers to seek to harmonise policies and plans across sectors, as agriculture excels with the support of other sectors, such as water and energy.  

Why is it important to encourage the private sector to invest in CSA solutions for the region’s future agricultural and food security challenges? 

The private sector is a major player along the agricultural value chain and therefore cannot be ignored. To ensure climate-smart and sustainable agricultural value chains, this positioning of private players in agriculture can be leveraged to support CSA uptake and up-scaling. The regulatory and policy environment in the region will need to recognise, promote and incentivise partnerships with private players by creating an environment for doing business and de-risking investments, especially given the known risks of doing business with the smallholder farming sector. This will include policies and infrastructure that enable farmer-focused services, such as ICTs, finance and credit, transport (for market access), post-harvest storage and processing, insurance, etc.  

Which initiatives that CDKN is involved in, related to CSA in southern Africa, are you most excited about? 

The Future Climate for Africa programme, a large consortium research project that is currently being carried out across the African continent, including various Southern African countries like Malawi and Tanzania, is aiming to increase the use of improved climate science and information for decision-making and planning. This programme is particularly exciting for the lessons that can be drawn for CSA in Southern Africa as the programme seeks to ensure that research is transferred into policy, planning and practice.

Stephanie Lynch

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The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) is a joint international institution of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States and the European Union (EU). CTA operates under the framework of the Cotonou Agreement and is funded by the EU.