Climate smart agriculture (CSA) is one of the ways to support smallholder farmers to cope with the negative effects of climate change. However, for it to work it must be region and context specific, be supported by appropriate policies, and apply approaches that bring together all the different actors in a coordinated manner. The policies must also be informed by research.
This is the key message of a presentation delivered by Dr Edidah Ampaire of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) at the 3rd Africa Food Security Conference and Agric-Exhibition in Nairobi on 23 September.
Dr Ampaire said climate change adaptation, including the adoption of climate smart agriculture must take into consideration various factors across different implementation levels―from the plant and farm level, such as crops that male and female farmers prefer to grow―to community and institutional levels, including coordination of all the different actors in the relevant sectors.
Unfortunately, evidence shows that at the moment the policies are not only fragmented and poorly implemented, but the various actors are also insufficiently coordinated and their roles are not clear, she added. She gave examples of case studies on how climate smart agriculture interfaces with policy and planning.
Researchers at IITA and their partners have generated evidence that coffee was one of the crops that would be negatively affected by climate change. As the climate becomes warmer there will be a reduction in the area suitable for growing Arabica coffee, therefore farmers would need support on alternative sources of livelihoods when they can no longer grow the crop.
“There is also the fear that to continue to grow the crop could lead to destruction of the already greatly diminished forests. This will therefore call for systematic, incremental, and transformative adaptation of the farming systems to reduce the negative impact on farmers’ livelihoods and on the environment. This will only be achieved by better planning”, Dr Ampaire said.
Fortunately, research provides a number of CSA options that can be applied across the different adaptation scenarios. For example, growing coffee under shade creates microclimates that would support the crop to cope with a warmer climate. One of the effective shade crops was banana which would also supply extra food and nutrition and biomass for the soil, and capture carbon. Policies should therefore encourage farmers to intercrop coffee with shade plants, especially banana and other fruit trees.
Climate change and agri-food policies also need to be gender responsive, Dr Ampaire said as she shared the findings of a study that had looked at the gaps in national policies and strategic plans in Uganda. The study provides recommendations for improving gender inclusiveness in CSA adoption and adaptation planning.
“CSA must be all inclusive and not benefit one group at the expense of the other. It must especially address the needs of marginalized groups such as women and youth”, Dr Ampaire said.
From the study, many of the national policies such as the National Climate Change Policy of 2013, the National Agriculture Policy (2013) and the National Development Plan, among others, did not articulate gender issues well. The Uganda Gender Policy of 1997, on the other hand, did not address climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction issues.
Dr Ampaire said gender issues should also be addressed systematically starting from the plant and farm level to community and institutional levels including markets, extension, and policy.
In conclusion, Dr Ampaire reiterated that climate change adaptation requires a multi-scale and multi-actor approach while climate smart agriculture adoption requires appropriate institutional and policy arrangements that are region and context-specific.