Thanks COP21... now let's get down to business with climate-smart agriculture

Thanks COP21... now let's get down to business with climate-smart agriculture

It’s all about the gaps, really. First, the absence of agriculture from international policy discussions on climate change – that was a major one. It was always transport-this, energy-that. With agriculture responsible for around quarter of greenhouse gas emissions, surely a robust response to climate change needed it to feature somewhere in the plan? But for years it was the elephant in the debating chamber. Then, suddenly, everything changed.

At COP21 in Paris a few weeks ago, four-fifths of UN-member states included activities related to agriculture in their commitments to tackle climate change. Agriculture couldn’t be ignored any longer. Finally, the gap was plugged.

It would be great if these plans, known as Intended Nationally-Determined Contributions (INDCs), could be implemented straight away. But now there’s another gap. Let’s call it the refinement gap: “Countries need to fine-tune their proposals by identifying priority actions and practical steps for achieving what they’ve committed to,” says Caitlin Corner-Dolloff, a researcher at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), which leads the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change (CCAFS).

Fortunately, these Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA) Country Profiles can help. Quick and easy to read, they give an overview of the agricultural challenges and in 12 countries, and how CSA can help them adapt to and mitigate climate change. Developed by CIAT and CCAFS, in partnership with the World Bank and Costa Rica’s CATIE, the majority cover Latin America, with two state-specific profiles for Mexico.

In addition, new profiles for Kenya, Rwanda and Sri Lanka have just been released.

“The response to the CSA Country Profiles so far has been incredible. We’ve had so many people – from agricultural advisers to policymakers to research organisations – either requesting copies or asking us to profile their countries next. It’s clear the profiles are addressing a real need for more accessible yet robust information on the status of CSA in different countries, and the practical steps countries can take tackle climate change through sustainable agriculture.”

Caitlin Corner-Dolloff

Researcher at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), which leads this project as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change (CCAFS)

Writing on the World Bank’s blog recently, Marc Sadler described the profiles as providing “a strong catalyst to move the dialogue, to improve knowledge or to focus potential actions.”

There will be more profiles coming in 2016, including several for sub-Saharan Africa*, which are being developed by CIAT, CCAFS and USAID. This year will also see work begin on the first profile for a European country: Moldova.

So, let’s assume everyone eventually gets their profile and refines their activities. Is that job done? Not quite. New irrigation systems don’t come cheap; making your livestock system cleaner and greener can’t be done with small change either. There’s going to be a funding gap: who’s going to pay for CSA?

The Country Profiles help here too, by identifying CSA-friendly donors and providing ideas as to the best practices to support. Also, a new CSA Prioritization Framework will enable donors to obtain more in-depth analyses of CSA packages to help channel their investments. It could mean the funding gap is living on borrowed time.

But we’re not quite home-and-dry, because there’s still one more: the time gap. We’ll have to wait for those climate-smart practices to start bearing fruit. CCAFS’s climate-smart villages should help. These are real places in the developing world where a host of CSA activities are being tested. They should provide the proof that closing all the gaps is worth the effort, worth the cost, and worth the wait.


GET INVOLVED: The next big ideas

Are you a policymaker who wants to develop a new CSA profile for your location, or refine an existing one? Here are some ideas for you:

  1. Closing the CSA knowledge gap – on-demand CSA country profiles. Donors, policymakers and farmers in many more countries can benefit from CSA Country Profiles. These can be customised to include specific variables of interest.
  1. CSA profiles for local action – in compiling the CSA country profiles, the CCAFS team found that in some countries, funding decisions regarding agricultural projects are often made at a local or regional level, rather than at the national level. The development of localised CSA profiles, can help local authorities identify high-interest activities for further investigation. With the close involvement of farmers, these CSA profiles will also help them assess local barriers to the adoption of CSA.
  1. Cost-benefit analysis of “best-bet” practices – by adding an economic dimension, further studies will allow decision makers to better understand the many trade-offs likely to be involved in implementing different CSA packages. This in turn will enable them to assess the viability of different packages and fine-tune their policies accordingly.

To find out how to get involved, visit CIAT’s Take Action page.

* Sub-Saharan Africa CSA country profiles due in 2016 – Mali, Niger, Ghana, Senegal, Ethiopia, Uganda



The following CSA Country Profiles are ready for download:

Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Grenada, Mexico, Peru, Nicaragua, Uruguay, Rwanda, Kenya, Sri Lanka, Mali, Niger.

During 2016 these will be ready: Mali, Niger, Ghana, Senegal, Ethiopia, Uganda.

For more information on current profiles, those already in the pipeline, and new ones for the future, contact CIAT’s CSA Country Profile project leader, Andreea Nowak