CLIMATE SMART AGRICULTURE
A journey toward climate proofing agriculture.
Promoting resilience to climate change is a fundamental part of long term sustainability of small farmers. Food and Beverage companies grapple with how to understand the risk climate change presents to their raw materials and suppliers and where to access reliable and tailored information. The Food Lab has gathered some of the best solutions and resources on smallholder climate resilience being developed by our members and partners here.
How does CSA relate to other sustainable agriculture frameworks?
The concept of CSA was first launched by FAO in 2010 to tackle three main objectives:
- Sustainably increasing food security by increasing agricultural productivity and incomes;
- Building resilience and adapting to climate change;
- Developing opportunities for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture.
Climate Smart Agriculture is a subset of sustainable agriculture, by which we mean that all the practices that deliver productivity, resilience or mitigation in relation to climate would also be practices included in most elaborations of sustainable agriculture. Some sustainable agriculture practices would not be included in a compendium of climate smart practices.
According to many agronomists, soil organic matter is likely the most important measure of the results of “climate smart” farming practices because soils with high organic matter content hold moisture and provide nutrients better than soils with lower organic matter. In order to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, healthy soil can sequester carbon. The other key mitigation steps on farms are to reduce emissions from nitrogen fertilizer, ruminant livestock, land use change (particularly deforestation) and fossil fuels.
Interventions at the scale of landscapes or sectors are just as important as farming practices to ensure climate resilience. These interventions at a larger scale include plant breeding, re-planting tree crops, managing peatlands, avoiding deforestation, and stewarding ground and surface water.
Again, all of these farm practices and landscape interventions are components of sustainable agriculture. For the food and beverage industry, the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative (SAI) Platform has the most widely accepted framework and farm assessment instrument. Many of these farm and landscape elements are also included in voluntary standards, such as the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) standard, Forest Stewardship Council, Utz Certified, and organic regulations.
Our answer is informed by conversations with corporate leaders, including Duncan Pollard of Nestle and Jan Kees Vis of Unilever. We also borrow from a position paper by Sustainable Agriculture Initiative (SAI) Platform, published March 4, 2015.
How are different companies acting on climate change risk?
The International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and the Sustainable Food Lab engaged with key agribusiness (including cocoa and coffee) companies to better understand the drivers for CSA adoption, potential barriers, and the types of tools and resources needed to . Based on our conversations with food and beverage companies, we identified two main drivers for climate change commitments: 1) corporate citizenship – protecting and promoting a company’s reputation and, 2) commercial relevance – ensuring a sustainable supply. Different types of companies prioritize one driver over another due to value chain position, proximity to farm-level, size, profitability and sales. Read more about the results of interviews with 18 coffee companies on their engagement with Climate Smart Agriculture here.
Companies address climate change risk in different ways to meet their priorities. As an example, Olam’s programs are designed to address supply security. Their competitive advantage is the ability to source raw materials, not in their consumer brand recognition. As a result, their programs to address climate change provide services to improve efficiency and resilience of small farms and the natural resources they depend on. Read about Olam’s partnership with Rainforest Alliance below.
As another example, the Kellogg company, considered a “front runner,” has pledged to help 500,000 farmers adopt climate smart agriculture. Their approach varies by geography and crop, but it includes adaptation measures at the farm level for small growers of corn and calculating and reducing the GHG emissions of large scale agriculture. Kellogg has joined a number of its peer companies in leading the CSA working group of the World Business Council on Sustainable Development which lobbies at the COP and has produced a practical Roadmap for companies to implement CSA.
What is the projected climate impact where our crops are grown?
In order to develop effective solutions to build resilience to climate change in smallholders, those designing solutions must know the specific climate change exposure being faced for particular sites. CIAT continues to model climate change over time with crop and location specific suitability maps and then categorizing the climate risk faced by specific sites into high risk (red), medium risk (yellow), and low risk (green) with impact gradient maps.
Cocoa suitability in Ghana with current climate and 2030 climate.
Type 1: low annual precipitation and a strong dry season
Type 2: cool temperatures and long dry season
Type 3: average temperatures and reliable precipitation
Type 4: temperatures and precipitation are high
Mixed: Uncertain suitability classification
Limitations: Most likely unsuitable, but some farmers harvest well
(Suitability and impact gradient maps from http://www.arcgis.com/apps/MapJournal/index.html?appid=eb683a0093974045b6d7c1b8fa7750fd)
Read more about CIAT’s use of climate models for cocoa in Ghana, cocoa in Ivory Coast, and global coffee production. Please note that these climate change impact maps are meant to be used in collaboration with CIAT and local experts as they require context and explanation. For more information, please email Mark Lundy at [email protected].
What are our choices? How can we respond?
Smallholder farmers facing climate change must cope, adjust or transform in order to maintain a viable livelihood depending on the severity of climate change impacts they face. Using the CIAT impact gradient maps, field experts from the Rainforest Alliance and IITA are developing guides for climate smart agricultural practices, building on farmer and partner knowledge, to help farmers adapt to their climate risk (using the same green, yellow, red scale as the climate maps).
IITA collects information on farmer attitudes to group farmers in order to develop site-specific climate adaptation strategies that are tailored to farmers’ particular needs.
It is widely known that small farmers face barriers to taking on new practices, especially those who are cash poor and cannot afford to adopt all of the recommended practices at once. To address this, IITA has developed the Stepwise Investment Pathway for Climate Smart Agriculture. This pathway approach takes the suite of agricultural practices tailored to the site-specific climate risk and divides it into steps, or sets of specific climate smart practices that are grouped together in a particular order that farmers can adopt over time for effective, sustainable intensification.
IITA has a number of other approaches and tools to define site specific CSA practices. One tool being tested in Ugandan coffee and Ghanaian cocoa is the Shade Tree selection tool. You can test the beta-version here and contact Dr. Laurence Jassogne at IITA for more information.
In addition to direct work with farmers to adopt CSA practices, providing more resilient planting material to farmers can help farmers to adapt to a changing climate. Read more about the climate risk coffee faces and World Coffee Research and others’ roles in breeding and testing coffee tree hybrids that can withstand the effects of climate change while still producing a great tasting cup of coffee.
How can we choose the most cost-effective response?
It’s critical for farmers and buyers to be able to evaluate the costs and benefits of various climate adaptation practices. Multiple efforts are underway to do this. For example, CIAT developed a Cost-Benefit Analysis (CBA) approach to determine the relative profitability of alternative cropping practices, involving the comparison of the annual flows of incremental benefits with that of incremental costs. The tool is used ex-ante, or before the practices are adopted, acting as a predictive decision-making tool for farmers by showing the initial investment and return on that investment over time as compared what would be returned using current practices.
Figure. CIAT’s approach to cost benefit analysis of CSA practices. The dark colored boxes are the main modules of the Cost-Benefit Analysis Excel Tool.
How do we measure progress?
In collaboration with the USAID Feed the Future Learning Community for Supply Chain Resilience, The Sustainable Food Lab and Root Capital have produced An Introduction to Assessing Climate Resilience in Smallholder Supply Chains. The guide breaks down the complex concept of resilience into manageable themes for food and beverage companies and provides actionable process steps for applying these themes in smallholder crop-focused supply chains. These steps guide companies to first identify the risk to the supply chain, with an analysis of the climate threats relevant to their sourcing area (1. Know your risk and 2. Know your farmers); then look at farmers’ capacity to deal with the projected threat (3. Know your resilience); how to design strategy to respond to the diagnostic findings (4. Know how to build resilience); and finally, monitoring progress for continuous improvement (5. Know your progress). Embedded within the steps are references to a host of current resources—on measurement methodology, indicators, implementation, etc.— allowing companies to take advantage of leading tools to plan for the impacts of climate change as part of their risk management strategy or to act in line with their contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) or other sustainability commitments.
How can we measure baseline emissions in a way that leads to action planning ?
Climate mitigation and adaptation sometimes go hand in hand, building soil organic matter offsetting emissions and building resilience. The Cool Farm Tool is a farm level tools developed to be globally applicable way to measure the mitigation benefits of adaptation practices or investigate different options and pathways for reducing emissions.
Read: Building Collaborations in a Changing Cocoa Climate for more information and also read about our work with the Feed the Future Learning Community on Climate Smart Agriculture and Mainstreaming Climate Smart Value Chains.
Building on the momentum of the Paris COP 21, USAID is teaming up with world-renowned climate scientists in the CCAFS (CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change Agriculture and Food Security) global research program, the Sustainable Food Lab, and the innovative agricultural lender Root Capital to launch a learning community on private sector engagement in climate smart agriculture. This activity has two overarching goals:
Support private sector – global and local agribusiness – engagement in CSA; and
Strengthen USAID and others’ capacity to stimulate investment and partner effectively with the private sector in the CSA arena.
The Learning community supports and connect two USAID programs in Cocoa and Coffee.
Early mover companies are interviewed at the onset of the program to gain insight into how to best develop and implement tailored climate smart strategies. These initial discussion result in a diagnostics toolkit for understanding climate exposure risk, evaluating costs and benefits of climate smart practices, and assessing the capacity of small and medium scale enterprises to deliver extension that facilitates farmer adoption of climate smart strategies. A learning community facilitates collaboration between private and public sector actors on key questions on CSA engagement and results-sharing on how best to scale climate smart value chains worldwide.
The Mainstreaming Climate Smart Value Chains Initiative — a project of the Sustainable Food Lab, Climate Change Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS, a program led by CIAT), IITA, Rainforest Alliance, and Root Capital — is working to answer these questions, leveraging state-of-the art climate science for the benefit of cocoa and coffee farmers and supply chains actors in Ghana, Peru and Nicaragua.
The project has already found strong private and public sector interest in the research findings around future climate suitability for crops and the value of pre-competitively sharing strategies for building climate resilience into cocoa and coffee supply chains. Stakeholders in both Peru and Ghana have been engaged in kick-off workshops, and preliminary results from Ghana are being validated on the ground in 2016.
For more information, read Climate Smart Cocoa Picks up Steam in Ghana.