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Climate Resilient Farming Systems

Banner - M. Yousuf Tushar

Agriculture has always had to face variations in the local climate, so farmers and pastoralists have longstanding coping mechanisms such as cultivating diverse crops and mutual support arrangements. Despite their merits, such measures may be inadequate to deal with the magnitude and frequency of climatic variations observed under climate change.

CSA technologies address this gap by further enhancing the climate resilience of farming systems, and hence minimising the adverse effects of climate change on farm production. As noted above, some CSA technologies also harness untapped potential within farming systems and hence raise farm production. Both these effects are critical to delivering food security in a world characterised by entrenched poverty and worsening climate change impacts.

Common technologies for building climate resilience for agriculture include:
  • Meteorological information, forecasts and climate modelling can inform farming decisions, such as what and when to plant and how best to manage farming systems. Yet such information will only help farmers if they are familiar with and can access technologies that are effective under the anticipated conditions.

  • Hybrid seed varieties designed to cope with heat stress, drought or floods can deliver dramatic results, but small-scale farmers may struggle to access and/or afford them.

  • Agro-ecological farming practices such as soil and water conservation or agroforestry offer ‘no regrets’ options effective across a range of alternative climate futures. They tend to be readily accessible to farmers since they require few purchased inputs, and can also diversify production. Yet a tricky question is why they often fail to spread.

  • Weather-indexed crop insurance has attracted interest in many countries. Yet questions remain about its wider relevance, such as its affordability to poor farmers and its viability for insurers in areas where climate shocks are frequent.

An overarching goal of climate change adaptation for farmers is to identify “climate resilient pathways”, or strategies to secure a viable livelihood despite climate change. Because localities differ, in terms of both climate change impacts and the strengths and vulnerabilities of communities, climate resilient pathways will also differ from place to place.

Image credit: . M. Yousuf Tushar, World Fish / Flickr

Mechanisms for agricultural climate change mitigation incentives for smallholders
T. Havemann; V. Muccione / Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research 2011
Smallholder farmers have an important role to play in the prevention of climate change by reducing net greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. However, they are not benefitting from international financial mechanisms established as a result o...
Biocharred pathways to sustainability? Triple wins, livelihoods and the politics of technological promise
M. Leach; J. Fairhead; J. Fraser / STEPS Centre, Institute of Development Studies 2010
Considerable hype and debate are currently surrounding the potential of biochar (charcoal created through the burning of biomass in low oxygen environments) in climate change mitigation and agriculture. This report attempts to summari...
Carbon sequestration in agricultural soils
A. Braimoh / World Bank 2012
This report aims to improve the knowledge base for scaling-up investments in land management technologies that sequester soil carbon for increased productivity under changing climate conditions. The report presents the following key m...
Agriculture and climate change: real problems, false solutions
H. Paul (ed); S. Semino (ed); A. Ernsting / EcoNexus 2009
Agriculture plays an important role in climate change, both as a contributor emitting greenhouse gasses (GHGs) and as a potential reducer of negative impacts. This paper gives an overview of how current and proposed agricultural pract...
'Agriculture', in Climate change 2007: mitigation
P. Smith; Z. Martino; D. Cai / Cambridge University 2007
This contributory chapter of Working Group III to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) outlines the status of climate change mitigation in agriculture and its implications on development...
Adaptation actions in Africa: evidence that gender matters
J. Twyman; M. Green; Q. Bernier / Climate Change Agriculture Food Security 2014
This paper uses descriptive statistics to shows gender differences in terms of perceptions of climate change, awareness and adoption of climate smart agricultural (CSA) practices, and types and sources of agro-climatic information in ...
Adapting to climate change through land and water management in Eastern Africa: Results of pilot projects in Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations 2014
FAO-Sida report providing evidence and lessons learned from a climate adaptation pilot project in Kenya, Tanzania, and Ethiopia. With around 80 per cent of the population of the Eastern African region dependent on agriculture w...
The adaptation advantage: The economic benefits of preparing small-scale farmers for climate change
International Fund for Agricultural Development 2013
This paper features five case studies of rural development projects which represent a variety of situations in which environmental or climate-related problems pose a challenge to human development. The projects are based in Kenya, Tur...
Tropical fruit tree species and climate change
B. Sthapit (ed); R. Rao (ed); S. Sthapit (ed) / Bioversity International 2012
The study focuses on the knowledge which could help overcome threats to agriculture and food security, exploring new ways of helping vulnerable rural communities adjust to global changes in climate. Its particular focus is tropical fr...
Options for support to agriculture and food security under climate change
S.J. Vermeulen; P.K. Aggarwal; A. Ainslie / Elsevier 2011
This journal article highlights that agriculture and food security are key sectors for intervention under climate change. It highlights that agricultural production is highly vulnerable even to 2C (low-end) predictions for glob...