There are multiple benefits of taking a climate-smart approach to agriculture in Africa. As Africa’s population continues to grow and is expected to double by 2050 (reaching the 1 billion mark), the continent will be challenged to meet the food security and nutritional requirements of its people, while also ensuring continued economic growth and sustainable livelihoods on a continent where agriculture is the backbone of many African countries’ economies.
Meeting these demands should be seen in context of regional climate change – Africa is predicted to be the region that will be most affected by climate change, due to changes in mean temperatures and rainfall, as well as increased variability associated with both. These changes in climate could have impacts on water availability, growing seasons, flooding and drought, as well as plant and animal diseases and pest patterns – among others.
Shifting world agriculture to a “climate-smart” approach will not only help prevent future food security crises but holds the promise of sparking economic and agricultural renewal in rural areas where hunger and poverty are most prevalent, argues a new FAO publication.
On the one hand, the magnitude and scope of climate change’s impacts on agricultural systems means that boosting rural communities’ resilience and adaptive capacities is essential to safeguarding world food security, notes FAO success stories on climate-smart agriculture, released this month.
Rising temperatures and an increased frequency of extreme weather events will have direct and negative impacts on crops, livestock, forestry, fisheries and aquaculture productivity in the years to come, as clearly indicated in the most recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Vulnerable, farming-dependent populations in the developing world are particularly at risk.
But at the same time, the compelling need to deal with the challenges posed by climate change offers an opportunity to transform the way food systems use natural resources, improve agriculture’s sustainability and promote poverty reduction and economic growth, the publication adds.
Highlighting cases studies in “climate-smart agriculture” from around the globe, FAO’s document shows that many rural communities are already successfully making the transition to new forms of farming better suited to the rigors of a warmer world.
“A shift to climate-smart agriculture will not only help shield farmers from the adverse effects of climate change and offer a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but can also improve farm yields and household incomes, leading to stronger, more resilient communities,” said FAO Deputy Director-General Helena Semedo.
“We can no longer afford to separate the future of food security from that of natural resources, the environment and climate change – they are inextricably intertwined and our response must be as well,” she added.
The model of climate-smart agriculture that FAO is promoting seeks to address three broad objectives:
- Sustainably increase agricultural productivity and incomes
- Help rural communities and farmers adapt to and become more resilient to the effects of climate change
- To reduce or remove agriculture’s greenhouse gases emissions, when possible.
Exactly how farmers go about tackling these goals can change from place to place, depending on local circumstances.
FAO helping make the change
FAO is collaborating with national and local partners around the globe to help them develop locally-tested solutions that work for them. For example, in the highlands of Mount Kilimanjaro, the Organization has partnered with farmers to reboot an 800 year-old agroforestry system known as Kihamba, which supports one of the highest rural population densities in Africa and provides livelihoods for an estimated one million people. An agro-ecosystem similar to a virgin tropical mountain forest, Kihamba maximizes the use of limited land, provides a large variety of foods all year round and maintains groundwater health, among other environmental services.
Other case studies profiled in FAO success stories on climate-smart agriculture include:
- Work with Kenyan and Tanzanian farmers in on-the-ground field schools that has helped identify and develop resilient, climate-smart farming systems attuned to local conditions
- In Malawi, Vietnam and Zambia, assistance to policymakers in developing national policies aimed at promoting and supporting climate-smart agriculture
- Projects that introduced new fertilizer technologies in Nigeria and innovative approaches to land use management in Uganda’s Kagera River Basin.