Scaling up rural adaptation strategies

Ninigui Village - Yatenga (Burkina Faso). Pic: Peter Casier.

Initiatives to help rural people adapt to climate change usually start as small pilot projects, allowing project implementers to learn by doing. These projects can generate useful lessons on how pro-poor adaptation strategies can ensure food security and development under climate change. But how can we scale these up, and ensure that more people in more countries benefit from adaptation strategies? This was the central question in Roundtable 3 at Agriculture and Rural Development Day. The session, which was convened by the Earth Systems Science Partnership (ESSP) and the World Food Program (WFP) showcased adaptation strategies garnered from the international development world, the private sector, and from researchers.

RT3-Rodney_Cooke_IFAD The session was facilitated by Rodney Cooke from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), who reiterated the key messages of the day: agriculture and land use change must be central to climate change discussion, because together they produce 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions; agriculture also has the potential to store carbon and reduce other greenhouse gas emissions. Meanwhile, billions of people depend directly and indirectly on agriculture, particularly the 500M small farms on the planet, which support 2 billion people, one-third of the world’s population. 80 percent of the food in developing countries is produced by small farms. As population increases to 2050, food production in developing countries will have to double to meet new demand.

RT3-Diana_LivermanDiana Liverman, an expert on climate impacts, vulnerability and adaptation, and climate policy and mitigation in the developing world, emphasised the need for the global change community to work closely together with the international development and agricultural research communities, in order to properly assess questions on agriculture, climate change and food security. Dr. Liverman, who is Co-Director at the University of Arizona’s Institute of the Environment, said the challenge was not only to scale up lessons from adaptation and vulnerability research, but also to scale down large scale projections from climate models, so that this data can be useful for local decision-making. Adaptation must be scaled up in the context of larger scale policy changes, for example at the national level. Decision-makers must climate-proof macro level policies in addition to helping the poor adapt. Climate change makes this worse for rural people who are already vulnerable to many different factors.

“We must make sure that everything we do on climate action and policy are related to the impact, effects and opportunities on the most vulnerable people,” said Robin Mearns from the World Bank. One approach to ensuring that adaptation and mitigation in rural development will work at scale, is to ensure coherence between programs and areas of policy intervention that may not be obviously related. For example in India, a rural livelihoods initiative is exploring potential linkages with a rural employment initiative, in order to provide more options to vulnerable poor, for whom diverse and stable sources of income is an essential component of adaptation.

RT3-Celine_HerweijerThe last speaker, Celine Herweijer from pwc UK, a tax and advisory service company that works in global sustainability, detailed how the role of the private sector in scaling up solutions to adaptation. For example, many larger food and agricultural businesses are incorporating risk management into their daily practices. Companies such as Unilever Tea in Kenya are able to make upfront investments in adaptation strategies and engage with directly with the farmers. The private sector, she said, can help the rural poor overcome their limited purchasing power. However, the private sector can only act in the right policy enabling environment, and so governments must help put rules into place to support further investments and private sector initiatives.

The discussion after the presentations centered around a number of key themes:

  • How to support decision makers when climate models have significant uncertainty
  • Farmers must invest in a diversity of ways to earn their living
  • Scaling up adaptation requires a communication for development approach, and farmers, the private sector and other actors must be brought into the development process from the outset
  • Supportive government policies are essential in helping farmers adapt. In Asia, for example, land tenure is often insecure, and farmers who do not own the land cannot easily decide what to plant and how.
  • Civil society and farmer voices need to be clearly heard and taken into account from the outset

Some of the key messages were incorporated into the Agriculture and Rural Development Day statement called for many more initiatives on climate-smart funding, with emphasis on efforts to help the rural poor adapt to climate change impacts and on the use of climate finance to realize agriculture’s substantial potential for capturing carbon and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.