Climate Smart Agriculture is the Term to Remember

by David Lansley and Kristin Donaldson, World Vision Australia

Spent Saturday at the Agriculture and Rural Development Day (that’s OK – I don’t mind giving up my  Saturday for a good cause). The line-up of speakers was impressive, including Sir John Beddington, former President of Ireland and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson, and World Bank Vice President for Sustainable Development Rachel Kyte.

The point was made very clearly from lots of different directions that agriculture has a big role to play in climate change mitigation and adaptation, and poverty reduction. Growth in the agriculture sector is estimated to be three times more effective in raising incomes than growth in any other sector.

The term to remember for agriculture is climate smart agriculture. (Please don’t call it CSA – if acronyms were greenhouse gases, the world would already be at 60 degrees and rising fast.) Climate smart agriculture is a mix of using the best of existing technologies plus the latest technology from many areas including seed and crop types, weather forecasting techniques and more. Various speakers though, made it clear that climate smart agriculture is not a one size fits all approach. Successful programs for smallholders will require ‘thousands of approaches’ tailored to the context of individual communities.

Particularly good news for the work of World Vision Australia and World Vision generally is the emphasis of speaker after speaker put on the importance of trees and agroforestry. Around 1.5 million people are dependent on degraded land. Agroforestry can increase ground cover and increase soil moisture and fertility. Increased soil fertility increases the resilience of agriculture in a hotter, drier and more volatile world, expands the range of livelihoods available to rural communities, and helps make feeding the expected extra 1billion people by 2025 more achievable. World Vision’s work in farmer managed natural regeneration, notably in Humbo, Ethiopia, is exactly what good agroforestry is about.

Waste got a mention. Large amounts of food is lost or wasted after it has been harvested. The problems are well known – rodents (rats and mice to you) and poor storage, cause considerable loss, as does food purchased but not eaten. John Beddington put a figure on total waste – I’d sit down if I were you because it’s a big number: 1.3bn tonnes. That’s not million, it’s billion.

Last but not least, various speakers emphasised the need for better information for smallholder farmers in developing countries. Better information on farming techniques, or weather, or prices in other cities or markets can make a big difference in the income of smallholders. So maybe getting mobile phone access for an ADP agriculture program is the best we can do.

This story was originally posted on the World Vision Australia blog. You can follow David and Kristin on twitter at COP17