Leveraging Science, Certification, and Impact Investment to Scale Climate Smart Agricultural Practices

Are your raw materials ‘climate smart’? A new Food Lab and CCAFS partnership tackles the challenge of scaling climate smart value chains.

Since 2010, Sustainable Food Lab has partnered with the University of Aberdeen, Unilever and many others to develop the Cool Farm Tool, an open source quantification tool for measuring GHG emissions in agriculture and modelling reduction scenarios. There is tremendous momentum in that work among leaders in the global food industry and professionalized farming community. The Lab is now building on that work to address the challenge of scaling climate smart agriculture with smallholder producers in partnership with researchers, standards organizations, and agricultural lenders.

Climate Smart Agriculture: this buzz term includes many of the tried and true measures to support the viability of agriculture – building soil fertility, protecting watersheds, increasing access to inputs, and access to knowledge and markets for more profitable and food secure farming families.   The climate smart component lends a new perspective: The term also suggests looking at agricultural practices from a new angle: how farmers, government, companies and NGOs can better understand and manage the risks from climate change and thus be more resilient.

An important part of scaling climate smart agriculture is engaging multiple actors in a food system to understand site-specific projections of climate impact and develop adaptation guidelines to respond to increasingly unpredictable rainfall or extreme weather events. If, for example, we know coffee or cocoa will likely not be suitable in a region in the coming years, what are the other crops available to farmers that are suitable in this region, what’s the strategy for diversifying and how do we build the markets and processing infrastructure that will be needed?

To do this, the Food Lab is partnering with the pre-eminent actors in climate science for tropical agriculture, IITA and CIAT, in a new initiative to link climate science with two pathways to scale: 1) certification led by Rainforest Alliance and 2) impact investment led by Root Capital.

The initiative assesses the climate change exposure of coffee and cocoa systems at a sub-national scale, develops appropriate CSA practices with farmers incorporating cash crops and food crops to increase resilience, and codifies these practices in adaptation guidelines. These guidelines will be mainstreamed through existing training curricula and used to develop innovative impact investment products. Sustainable Food Lab is facilitating broad outreach to promote the results with multiple standards organizations, impact investors and industry leaders. Our desired outcome is to influence government, private sector and civil society actors towards a common adaptation agenda applicable to other smallholder crops.

The project leverages existing value chain interventions and within them, translates climate science into actionable strategies for farmers and supporting actors including industry, certifiers, and investors. The project spans a number of geographies using smallholder coffee and cocoa systems in Africa and Latin America as model cases. This novel combination of science, certification and impact investment approaches add value to existing work with the goal of achieving adoption at scale for locally relevant climate smart agriculture practices.

We are just getting started in early 2015, and invite you to join us.  There will be a kick-off workshop in April in Ghana focused on cocoa, and a session at the Food Lab Leadership Summit in the Netherlands in June.

For more information, please contact Stephanie Daniels [email protected]

Sustainable Food Lab

Other Articles

Sustainable Food Lab

Partner With Us

As a partner with Sustainable Food Lab, you will be part of a network of global thought leaders from diverse organizations committed to making impactful changes in the food system.
Learn more

Sustainable Food Lab Newsletter

Get the latest news and updates when you subscribe to the Sustainable Food Lab Newsletter.

Newsletter Form

We promise not to spam, ever.