(1) What defines climate-smart agriculture?
Learn more: What is climate-smart agriculture?
- Sustainably increasing agricultural productivity.
- Building the resilience of food systems and safety nets.
- Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture.
- What is CSA and what is it not? Over the years, many innovations which sustainably increase agricultural production have been designed, tested and adopted. But to qualify as CSA, innovations must also enhance resilience and mitigation relative to business as usual. CSA requires consideration of all three objectives from the local to the global scales and over short and long time horizons. Learn more: How is CSA different?
- Are CSA interventions always ‘triple-win’? Ideally CSA produces triple-win outcomes. That means that CSA innovations increase productivity, enhance resilience to climate risks, and mitigate climate change by reducing GHG emissions. But often it is not possible to achieve all three. In implementing CSA, trade-offs often pop-up between these goals. This creates a need to weigh up the costs and benefits of different options based on stakeholder objectives. Learn more: See the next FAQ on trade-offs.
- How to manage trade-offs between the three goals of CSA? As trade-offs arise, they are identified and quantified during the CSA planning process. This involves weighing the costs and benefits of different options based on stakeholder objectives. Learn more: See Module 5: Sound Management of Energy for CSA: Examples of possible synergies and trade-offs between energy-smart food and CSA objectives, Table 5.3, Page 154, in the FAO Climate-smart Sourcebook & See also CSA plan: Targeting and prioritization
- What are the origins of CSA? The term CSA was first coined by the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) in a background document for the 2010 Hague Conference on Food Security, Agriculture and Climate Change. From the outset, the CSA concept had a strong focus on current and future food security, with an emphasis on adapting to and mitigating climate change. Now, the CSA concept has wide ownership from governments, regional and international agencies, civil society and the private sector.
- Is CSA focused on outcomes or practices? CSA is outcome focused. Practices, technologies, approaches, solutions are deployed if they help deliver on at least two of the three outcomes. That is, outcomes are more important than the inputs that lead to these outcomes. For example documenting enhanced resilience and food security is more important than accounting for the dissemination of e.g. drought resistant varieties. Part of the process of optimising outcomes is the management of synergies and trade-offs between outcomes. To achieve this, CSA also includes efforts to construct outcome metrics and develop prioritization tools for farmers and decision-makers. What the best and most appropriate solutions are depends on the context and stakeholder preferences. Learn more: see the case studies under each entry point.
(2) Why do we need Climate-smart agriculture?
Learn more: Why climate-smart agriculture?
- A different approach to productivity and food security? As with other approaches, sustainable increases in agricultural productivity and food security are core goals of CSA. But unlike many other approaches, CSA seeks to address this challenge in the context of current climate risks and future climate change.
- A different approach to resilience challenge? CSA recognizes that it is essential to reduce the exposure of agriculture to short-term risks and increase its resilience to shocks and longer-term stresses if food security objectives are to be sustainably met. This is especially true in developing countries. In addition, CSA seeks to ensure that we maintain healthy and resilient ecosystems, helping to secure essential environmental services for farmers for years to come.
- A different approach to mitigation? CSA provides potential mitigation opportunities in several ways: Avoiding deforestation through sustainable agricultural intensification; Lower emissions for each calorie or kilo of production though increased productivity; Reducing methane and nitrous oxide emissions from agriculture (Learn more: see case study under the Water management entry point); Sequestering carbon into soils and trees (Learn more: see case studies under the Soil management and the Forestry and agroforestry entry points)
(3) What’s new and different about climate-smart agriculture?
Learn more: How is climate-smart agriculture different?
CSA builds on a number of existing approaches and technologies but applies them in an integrated way across the three outcomes.
- How is CSA different from sustainable agriculture? Sustainable Agriculture is, fundamental to CSA. However, unlike CSA, sustainable agriculture does not explicitly address additional challenges posed by climate change. Simplifying, the relationship can be summarized as: CSA = Sustainable Agriculture + Resilience - Emissions
- How is CSA different from sustainable intensification? The logic behind sustainable intensification (SI) is simple: since the demand for food is growing, we need to produce more. To do this without using more land, we need to produce more food per unit of land area. In other words, we need to ‘intensify’ agricultural production, but in a sustainable way. Unlike CSA, SI does not explicitly take the impact of climate change into account.
- How is CSA different from ecosystem-based adaptation? Like CSA, ecosystem-based adaptation (EbA) seeks to help people adapt to the adverse effects of climate change. Also like CSA, EbA draws on the services provided by ecosystems and the biodiversity existent in those ecosystems to help people to adapt to climate change. This, in turn, requires that EbA sustainably manages, conserves and restores those ecosystems for current and future generations. Unlike CSA, EbA is solely focused on adaptation and the resilience of ecosystems; it does not explicitly address the goals of productivity and mitigation. As such, a CSA approach might include ecosystem-based adaptation, but that will just be one of many possible elements. Learn more: Ecosystem-based adaptation
- How is CSA different from sustainable land management and landscape approaches? SLM is defined as a procedure that helps integrate land, water, biodiversity and environmental management to meet rising food and fiber demands while sustaining landscape level ecosystem services and livelihoods. Unlike CSA, SLM does not explicitly address the need for adaptation to and/or the mitigation of climate change, but provides a valuable approach through which CSA projects can be implemented. Learn more: Sustainable land management. See also: Landscape management entry point.
(4) What benefits does CSA bring over traditional approaches?
- Benefits for farmers? For farmers on the ground, weather variability brings both lucky breaks and difficult challenges which must be managed. This is especially true for resource-poor small scale farmers in developing countries. CSA provides farmers with a framework for achieving sustainable increases in agricultural production despite the increasing climate variability being wrought by climate change. This, in turn, helps to secure both individual livelihoods and global food security. Learn more: The Africa Agricultural Status report 2014. See also: FAO Success Stories on Climate-smart Agriculture and Climate-smart agriculture success stories from farming communities around the world.
- Benefits for developing and emerging market countries? In developing and emerging economies, agricultural productivity is often lower than in high-income countries and it also tends to be more susceptible to climate-induced risk and shocks. This is especially true for rain-fed agriculture. In response to this, CSA offers an approach whereby productivity increases can be achieved despite increasing climate risks. While many agricultural practices that benefit farmers’ incomes and adaptation will automatically produce lower emissions per calorie or kg produced, mitigation outcomes should not be imposed as a condition for CSA support and funding.
- For donors? Donors are increasingly seeking to support agricultural research and development initiatives aimed at achieving greater agricultural production and food security in the context of both current climate-induced risks and future climate change. CSA provides the appropriate conceptual and planning framework for such support as well as an opportunity to achieve positive climate outcomes.
- For the development community? By engaging with specialists, rural communities, policy makers and donors in the rigorous planning of CSA development initiatives, robust and relevant CSA development programmes with a high chance of success will be developed. Such programmes will also be eligible for a range of funding opportunities. Learn More: Develop a plan. See also: Finance.
(5) How does CSA work in practice?
Learn more: Develop a plan
- How to initiate dialogue with partners and clients on CSA? Initiating dialogue with partners is the first step in CSA planning. It revolves around an improved understanding of agriculture in the development context, climate change impacts, the vulnerability of agricultural systems and farmers to climate change and the institutional and policy frameworks associated with CSA. It also includes the assessment of CSA actions already underway and the identification of promising future CSA initiatives. Once the context has been analysed, dialogue with national stakeholders should focus on national development plans, agricultural sector plans, NAMAs or NAPAs, as well as national communications on climate change. At the community and landscape level, dialogue should focus on local development plans, stakeholder interests, and negotiations with local authorities. Learn more: Situation analysis
- What type of actions fall under the banner of CSA? Governments and partners seeking to facilitate the implementation of CSA can undertake a range of actions to provide the foundation for effective CSA across agricultural systems, landscapes and food systems. CSA approaches include four major types of actions: (1) Expanding the evidence base and developing assessment tools to identify agricultural growth strategies for food security that integrate adaptation and mitigation options; (2) Building policy frameworks and consensus to support implementation at scale; (3) Strengthening the capacity of national and local institutions to enable farmers to better manage climate risks and adopt context-suitable agricultural practices, technologies and systems; and (4) Enhancing finance options to support implementation, linking climate and agricultural finance. Learn more: Climate-smart agriculture
- What tools exist that can help me develop a CSA project? Planning and developing a CSA project follows three key stages, namely (i) Situation analysis, (ii) Targeting and prioritization, (iii) Programme support, and (iv) Monitoring, evaluation and learning. For each stage, a wide range of appropriate tools are available and these are described in more detail elsewhere. Learn more: Develop a plan
- How can agricultural development programs work with CSA? There are numerous entry points for initiating CSA programmes. These entry points can be broadly grouped into three thematic areas: (i) practices and technologies, (ii) Creating an enabling environment for CSA, and (iii) CSA system approaches. Each of these is described in detail on this website, including case study examples. Learn more: CSA Entry points
- What are the best approaches for scaling up CSA? Multi-stakeholder platforms and policy making networks are critical for scaling up CSA. These approaches are especially effective if paired with stakeholder capacity enhancement, learning and innovative approaches to support farmer decision making. Intervention upstream at higher leverage points can be highly efficient and can offer cost-effective dissemination strategies that reach across scales. They can also result in diverse new partnerships. Learn more: Reaching more farmers: Innovative approaches to scaling up climate-smart agriculture.
- What are the financing options for CSA? A range of options exist for financing CSA, both from agricultural finance and climate finance. Learn more: Finance. See also: Big Facts: Policy and Finance
- How is the success of CSA projects measured? The successes of CSA projects are measured by evaluating progress towards CSA goals which are identified at the planning stage and are usually expressed as development outcomes. Metrics and tools exist to measure progress under each of the three pillars. CSA stresses that monitoring and evaluation should be a part of the planning process as it is here that objectives will be set, interventions selected and expected results outlined. Expected results and outcomes need to be clearly set out at the beginning of a project in the form of measurable local relevant indicators. These, in turn, should be developed on the basis of a comprehensive template. Learn more: Targeting and prioritization. See also: Phase 2 and Module 18: Assessment, monitoring and evaluation. In: FAO Climate-Smart Sourcebook (Pages 493-534)
(6) Frequently raised concerns
- Is financing from carbon markets a key element of CSA? While interest in agricultural GHG emission reductions has been increasing in voluntary carbon markets, the share of actual activities in any carbon market remains small. There are some promising niche markets for agricultural carbon credits, such as methane avoidance from manure management, fertilizer use efficiency and agroforestry. However, because of the high transaction costs and a shortage of suitable methodologies, together with the challenges that carbon markets are facing in general (decreasing and collapsing carbon prices), carbon finance is unlikely to develop into a significant source of CSA finance in the near future. Learn more: Finance.
- Does CSA promote GMOs? No. CSA is neutral on the use of GMOs. It neither actively promotes nor advocates against GMOs.
- Is CSA new wine in old bottles? No. Learn more: See FAQ above, What’s new & different about CSA?
- Does CSA have substantial mitigation potential besides indirectly reducing deforestation? Yes, both through the potential to sequester carbon into soils and trees and through the reduction in emission of GHGs. In addition, it can achieve lower emissions for each calorie or kilo of production though increased productivity. Learn more: See FAQ above, CSA and mitigation challenge
- Does CSA impose mitigation requirements on developing country agriculture? No. CSA does not impose mitigation requirements on either developing countries or on farmers. It does help in identifying potential mitigation opportunities, but it is equally about sustainable production and food security as well as building adaptation capacity and climate resilience.
- What safeguards does CSA have to protect the interests of farmers? Farmers’ wellbeing and interests are central to two of the three pillars of CSA: sustainable increases in production and food security and greater resilience to current and future climate-induced shocks. In addition, while there will be instances where farmers are able to benefit from carbon markets, CSA does not impose such mitigation requirements. Learn more: Kenyans Earn First Ever Carbon Credits From Sustainable Farming.