Profiles on climate-smart agriculture presented to standing-room-only World Bank audience

30 October, 2014 by (comments)

csa_publicationBuilding on prior experience to confront new challenges is a basic precept of ancient folk wisdom, which has informed actions in every sphere of human endeavor throughout history. Now, it also serves, logically, as the guiding principle for a novel effort aimed at getting a grip on climate change in the agriculture of Latin America and the Caribbean.

With support from the World Bank, climate experts at CIAT and the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center (CATIE) embarked on this new initiative to help open pathways for reaching climate-smart agriculture or CSA. The joint effort responds to a daunting triple challenge: bolstering food security through sustainable increases in production, while also enhancing agriculture’s resilience in the face of climate change and mitigating future impacts through reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

“The idea is to help mainstream CSA by raising awareness of its importance among governments and financing institutions, and by identifying specific entry points for action and investment,” said Caitlin Corner-Dolloff, a climate change expert at CIAT and one of the project leaders.

The first products of this partnership consist of seven country profiles and two sub-national ones, prepared with the active participation of government ministries and agencies as well as representatives of the private sector and civil society. Each profile sets the baseline in CSA for all or part of one of these seven countries: Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Grenada, Mexico, and Peru.

“This work shows many examples of climate-smart agricultural practices and demonstrates that national organizations want to scale them out,” said Bastiaan Louman, who leads research on climate change at CATIE. “Climate change demands immediate action, and the profiles indicate what can be done now to improve the enabling conditions for CSA.”

“CSA practices can benefit producers at different scales in both family farming and agribusiness,” added Claudia Bouroncle, a climate change researcher at CATIE and another of the project’s leaders.

The complete set of profiles (available in Spanish and English) was presented this week to a standing-room-only audience at World Bank headquarters in Washington, D.C., USA. Using attractive infographics to convey key messages at a glance, each profile describes the overall context of agriculture and climate change, surveys climate-smart technologies and practices that have already been adopted, explains the institutions and policies in place to advance these options, assesses opportunities for financing them, and presents case studies on especially promising initiatives.

After the presentation, Juergen Voegele, the World Bank’s senior director for agriculture global practice, stressed the Bank’s commitment to climate-smart programs: “You cannot have an agricultural development strategy that ignores climate change, nor can you aim for a 2-degree world while ignoring agriculture’s role.”

The World Bank needs a systematic approach for mainstreaming CSA principles into its operations, which this year alone involved activities worth US$ 4.5 billion, Voegele explained. “We need expertise and underlying analysis to inform what we do.  These profiles show the huge power of linking research with operational work and represent a basis for informed and deliberate interaction with our counterparts.”

Other participants responded positively to the country profiles as well, emphasizing their value for starting conversations based on a snapshot of the current situation and for identifying entry points to change with a range of actors, including those who are not agricultural specialists.

“This is the kind of effort envisioned by the Global Alliance on Climate-Smart Agriculture, which was launched a month ago at the United Nations Climate Summit in New York,” said Andy Jarvis, director of CIAT’s Decision and Policy Analysis (DAPA) Research Area. CGIAR contributes importantly to the alliance through its Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), which CIAT leads.

While the country profiles serve to raise awareness, other tools are being developed to support practical implementation of CSA. For example, CCAFS researchers in CIAT and other organizations are developing a compendium of scientific evidence on the outcomes, costs, benefits, and constraints associated with dozens of CSA practices. Researchers are also developing prioritization tools and testing these in Vietnam, Guatemala, and Mali to help decision makers identify best practices.

Moreover, there is interest in preparing country profiles for other regions and for incorporating CSA planning into broader discussions centered on landscape and value-chain approaches, using the other CSA decision-support tools now being developed.

In the profiles for Latin America and the Caribbean, CIAT and CATIE experts have captured a cross section of national perspectives, which underlines several important points about climate change adaptation and mitigation that are not necessarily obvious from a strictly regional vantage point.

First, while quite large, the threat is by no means uniform and, on the contrary, affects each country differently. For a small island nation like Grenada, sea level rise and increased incidence of tropical cyclones pose significant risks. In contrast, for El Salvador, lying within Central America’s Dry Corridor, the threat mostly consists of increased drought.

Second, for this reason, and also because each country shows particular strengths and weaknesses, climate-smart agriculture offers no one-size-fits-all solutions. In Mexico, for example, contrasting agro-ecosystems and socio-economic conditions require different approaches tailored to diverse contexts –drip irrigation for the commercial agriculture of Sinaloa State, for example, versus a strong emphasis on farmer-led innovation in the more subsistence-oriented smallholder agriculture of Chiapas.

A third point is that every country has bright spots of effective adaptation and mitigation, which provide a foundation for building more comprehensive national strategies. In Argentina, for example, where no-tillage is used on 80% of the cropland to enhance soil quality, farmers can make this technology more climate smart through crop rotations and precision management of fertilizers. Likewise, agroforestry, which is well established in the coffee sectors of Colombia and Costa Rica, can be further developed along with silvopastoral systems through payment for ecosystem services (PES) schemes. The bright spots in some countries derive from longstanding traditional practices, like Peru’s export-oriented production of native crops. In other countries, these are the result of new science-based efforts involving, as in Colombia and El Salvador, integrated decision support systems based on the compilation and analysis of data and information.

Fourth, to capitalize on individual advantages, every country must do more to strengthen its planning and capacity for confronting climate change. An excellent example of this is the landmark alliance between Colombia’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MADR) and CIAT. Uniting producer associations with research partners, this is the country’s first integrated effort to boost agricultural productivity while also promoting climate change adaptation and mitigation.

Finally, countries in the region have much to learn from one another – with respect to specific technologies, like conservation agriculture and silvopastoral systems, and in other areas as well, including financial mechanisms such as PES. The point is that wisdom results less from isolated individual efforts than from collective action informed by a wide body of shared experience.


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Filed Under: Climate Change, Latin America and the Caribbean, Regions