Why climate-smart agriculture?
Climate-smart agriculture (CSA) helps address a number of important challenges:
1. CSA addresses food security, misdistribution and malnutrition
Despite the attention paid to agricultural development and food security over the past decades, there are still about 800 million undernourished and 1 billion malnourished people in the world. At the same time, more than 1.4 billion adults are overweight and one third of all food produced is wasted. Before 2050, the global population is expected to swell to more than 9.7 billion people (United Nations 2015). 1 At the same time, global food consumption trends are changing drastically, for example, increasing affluence is driving demand for meat-rich diets. If the current trends in consumption patterns and food waste continue, it is estimated we will require 60% more food production by 2050 (Alexandratos and Bruinsma 2012). 2 CSA helps to improve food security for the poor and marginalised groups while also reducing food waste globally (CCAFS 2013). 3
Figure 1: Food security, malnutrition and misdistribution
Source: CCAFS Big Facts: Food security
2. CSA addresses the relationship between agriculture and poverty
Agriculture continues to be the main source of food, employment and income for many people living in developing countries. Indeed, it is estimated that about 75% of the world’s poor live in rural areas, with agriculture being their most important income source (Lipper et al. 2014). 4 As such, agriculture is uniquely placed to propel people out of poverty. Agricultural growth is often the most effective and equitable strategy for both reducing poverty and increasing food security (CCAFS and FAO 2014). 5
3. CSA addresses the relation between climate change and agriculture
Climate change is already increasing average temperatures around the globe and, in the future, temperatures are projected to be not only hotter but more volatile too. This, in turn, will alter how much precipitation falls, where and when. Combined, these changes will increase the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events such as hurricanes, floods, heat waves, snowstorms and droughts. They may cause sea level rise and salinization, as well as perturbations across entire ecosystems. All of these changes will have profound impacts on agriculture, forestry and fisheries (FAO 2013a). 6
Figure 2: Observed and projected changes in annual average surface temperature
The agriculture sector is particularly vulnerable to climate change because different crops and animals thrive in different conditions. This makes agriculture highly dependent on consistent temperature ranges and water availability, which are exactly what climate change threatens to undermine. In addition, plant pests and diseases will likely increase in incidence and spread into new territories (Grist 2015), 7 bringing further challenges for agricultural productivity.
Figure 3: Projected changes in agriculture in 2080 due to climate change
While climate change will have both positive and negative impacts on crop yields - meaning that for some crops in some areas, yields will rise while others elsewhere suffer - negative impacts have outweighed positive impacts to date (IPCC 2014b). 8 Already, it is estimated that climate change has reduced global yields of wheat by 5.5% and of maize by 3.8% (Lobell et al. 2011). 9 By 2090, it is projected that climate change will result in an 8-24% loss of total global caloric production from maize, soy, wheat and rice (Elliott et al. 2015). 10 Where these declines in productivity occur will vary. For example, sub-Saharan Africa will be hit particular hard; it is estimated that across Africa maize yields will drop by 5% and wheat yields by 17% before 2050 (Knox et al. 2012). 11
Figure 4: Consequences of climate change for crop production and livestock systems
The relationship between agriculture and climate change is a two-way street: agriculture is not only affected by climate change but has a significant effect on it in return. Globally, agriculture, land-use change and forestry are responsible for 19-29% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Within the least developed countries, this figure rises to 74% (Vermeulen et al. 2012; 12 Funder et al. 2009 13). If agricultural emissions are not reduced, agriculture will account for 70% of the total GHG emissions that can be released if temperature increases are to be limited to 2°C (see figure 6). The mitigation options available within the agricultural sector are just as cost-competitive as those established within the energy, transportation and forestry sectors. And they are just as capable of achieving long-term climate objectives (Smith et al. 2007). 14 For this reason, mitigation is one of the three pillars of climate-smart agriculture.
Figure 5: Agricultural greenhouse gas emissions
Source: CCAFS Big Facts: Food emissions
Figure 6: Share of agricultural greenhouse gas emission in a 2°C world in a BAU scenario
Source: World Resources Institute
Figure 7: Composition of agricultural emissions
Source: IPCC report: Agriculture
United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs Population Division. 2015. World Population Prospects: The 2015 Revision. Working Paper No. ESA/P/WP.241. New York, NY: The Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the UN Secretariat.http://esa.un.org/unpd/wpp/Publications/Files/Key_Findings_WPP_2015.pdf Understanding the demographic changes that are likely to unfold over the coming years, as well as the challenges and opportunities that they present for achieving sustainable development, is important for designing and implementing the post-2015 development agenda. The 2015 Revision of World Population Prospects is the twenty-fourth round of official United Nations population estimates and projections that have been prepared by the Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat. The 2015 Revision builds on the previous revision by incorporating additional results from the 2010 round of national population censuses as well as findings from recent specialized demographic and health surveys that have been carried out around the world. The 2015 Revision provides the demographic data and indicators to assess population trends at the global, regional and national levels and to calculate many other key indicators commonly used by the United Nations system.
Alexandratos N, Bruinsma J. 2012. World agriculture towards 2030/2050: The 2012 revision. ESA Working Paper No. 12-03. Rome, Italy: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.http://www.fao.org/docrep/016/ap106e/ap106e.pdf This paper is a re-make of Chapters 1-3 of the Interim Report World Agriculture: towards2030/2050 (FAO, 2006). In addition, this new paper includes a Chapter 4 on productionfactors (land, water, yields, fertilizers). Revised and more recent data have been used as basisfor the new projections, as follows: (a) updated historical data from the Food Balance Sheets1961-2007 as of June 2010; (b) undernourishment estimates from The State of FoodInsecurity in the World 2010 (SOFI) and related new parameters (CVs, minimum daily energyrequirements) are used in the projections; (c) new population data and projections from theUN World Population Prospects - Revision of 2008; (d) new GDP data and projections fromthe World Bank; (e) a new base year of 2005/2007 (the previous edition used the base year1999/2001); (f) updated estimates of land resources from the new evaluation of the GlobalAgro-ecological Zones (GAEZ) study of FAO and IIASA. Estimates of land under forest andin protected areas from the GAEZ are taken into account and excluded from the estimates ofland areas suitable for crop production into which agriculture could expand in the future; (g)updated estimates of existing irrigation, renewable water resources and potentials forirrigation expansion; and (h) changes in the text as required by the new historical data andprojections.Like the interim report, this re-make does not include projections for the Fisheries andForestry sectors. Calories from fish are, however, included, in the food consumptionprojections, along with those from other commodities (e.g. spices) not analysed individually.The projections presented reflect the magnitudes and trajectories we estimate the major foodand agriculture variables may assume in the future; they are not meant to reflect how thesevariables may be required to evolve in the future in order to achieve some normativeobjective, e.g. ensure food security for all, eliminate undernourishment or reduce it to anygiven desired level, or avoid food overconsumption leading to obesity and related Non-Communicable Diseases.
CCAFS. 2013. Big Facts on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security. Copenhagen, Denmark: CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).https://ccafs.cgiar.org/bigfacts/# Big Facts is a resource of the most up-to-date and robust facts relevant to the nexus of climate change, agriculture and food security. It is intended to provide a credible and reliable platform for fact checking amid the range of claims that appear in reports, advocacy materials and other sources. Full sources are supplied for all facts and figures and all content has gone through a process of peer review.
Lipper L, Thornton P, Campbell BM, (…), Torquebiau EF. 2014. Climate-smart agriculture for food security. Nature Climate Change 4:1068-1072.http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2437 Climate-smart agriculture (CSA) is an approach for transforming and reorienting agricultural systems to support food security under the new realities of climate change. Widespread changes in rainfall and temperature patterns threaten agricultural production and increase the vulnerability of people dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods, which includes most of the world's poor. Climate change disrupts food markets, posing population-wide risks to food supply. Threats can be reduced by increasing the adaptive capacity of farmers as well as increasing resilience and resource use efficiency in agricultural production systems. CSA promotes coordinated actions by farmers, researchers, private sector, civil society and policymakers towards climate-resilient pathways through four main action areas: (1) building evidence; (2) increasing local institutional effectiveness; (3) fostering coherence between climate and agricultural policies; and (4) linking climate and agricultural financing. CSA differs from 'business-as-usual' approaches by emphasizing the capacity to implement flexible, context-specific solutions, supported by innovative policy and financing actions.
CCAFS, FAO. 2014. Climate-Smart Agriculture: What is it? Why is it needed? Rome, Italy: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.http://www.fao.org/3/a-i4226e.pdf In the next 20 years, increasing the productivity and incomes from smallholder crop, livestock, fishery and forestry production systems will be key to achieving global food security. Most of the world’s poor are directly or indirectly dependent on agriculture, and experience has shown that growth in agriculture is often the most effective and equitable strategy for reducing poverty and increasing food security. Climate change multiplies the challenges of achieving the needed growth and improvements in agricultural systems, and its effects are already being felt. Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA) is an approach to dealing with these interlinked challenges in a holistic and effective manner. This brief is intended to give an overview of the approach and its main features, as well as answers to frequently asked questions about it.
FAO. 2013a. Climate-Smart Agriculture: Sourcebook. Rome, Italy: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.http://www.fao.org/3/a-i3325e.pdf Between now and 2050, the world’s population will increase by one-third. Most of these additional 2 billion people will live in developing countries. At the same time, more people will be living in cities. If current income and consumption growth trends continue, FAO estimates that agricultural production will have to increase by 60 percent by 2050 to satisfy the expected demands for food and feed. Agriculture must therefore transform itself if it is to feed a growing global population and provide the basis for economic growth and poverty reduction. Climate change will make this task more difficult under a business-as-usual scenario, due to adverse impacts on agriculture, requiring spiralling adaptation and related costs.
Grist N. 2015. Topic Guide: Climate Change, Food Security and Agriculture. United Kingdom: DFID.http://dx.doi.org/10.12774/eod_tg.april2015.gristn Written for DFID staff, the Guide is suitable for non-experts and experts on food, farming and climate change. It is not a comprehensive manual, but aims to provide sufficient information to enable development professionals to take some practical steps in their day-to-day work, as well as to know where to look for more information.
IPCC. 2014b: Summary for policymakers. In: Field CB et al., (Eds.). 2014. Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Part A: Global and Sectoral Aspects. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar5/wg3/ipcc_wg3_ar5_summary-for-policymakers.pdf
The Working Group III contribution to the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) assesses literature on the scientific, technological, environmental, economic and social aspects of mitigation of climate change. It builds upon the Working Group III contribution to the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report (AR4), the Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation (SRREN) and previous reports and incorporates subsequent new findings and research. The report also assesses mitigation options at different levels of governance and in different economic sectors, and the societal implications of different mitigation policies, but does not recommend any particular option for mitigation. This Summary for Policymakers (SPM) follows the structure of the Working Group III report. The narrative is supported by a series of highlighted conclusions which, taken together, provide a concise summary. The basis for the SPM can be found in the chapter sections of the underlying report and in the Technical Summary (TS). References to these are given in square brackets.
Lobell DB, Schlenker W, Costa-Roberts J. 2011. Climate trends and global crop production since 1980. Science 333(6042):616–620.http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.1204531 Efforts to anticipate how climate change will affect future food availability can benefit from understanding the impacts of changes to date. We found that in the cropping regions and growing seasons of most countries, with the important exception of the United States, temperature trends from 1980 to 2008 exceeded one standard deviation of historic year-to-year variability. Models that link yields of the four largest commodity crops to weather indicate that global maize and wheat production declined by 3.8 and 5.5%, respectively, relative to a counterfactual without climate trends. For soybeans and rice, winners and losers largely balanced out. Climate trends were large enough in some countries to offset a significant portion of the increases in average yields that arose from technology, carbon dioxide fertilization, and other factors.
Elliott J, Deryngd D, Müllere C, (...), Wisserv D. 2014. Constraints and potential of future irrigation water availability on agricultural production under climate change. PNAS 111(9):3239-3244.http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1222474110 We compare ensembles of water supply and demand projections from 10 global hydrological models and six global gridded crop models. These are produced as part of the Inter-Sectoral Impacts Model Intercomparison Project, with coordination from the Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Project, and driven by outputs of general circulation models run under representative concentration pathway 8.5 as part of the Fifth Coupled Model Intercomparison Project. Models project that direct climate impacts to maize, soybean, wheat, and rice involve losses of 400–1,400 Pcal (8–24% of present-day total) when CO2fertilization effects are accounted for or 1,400–2,600 Pcal (24–43%) otherwise. Freshwater limitations in some irrigated regions (western United States; China; and West, South, and Central Asia) could necessitate the reversion of 20–60 Mha of cropland from irrigated to rainfed management by end-of-century, and a further loss of 600–2,900 Pcal of food production. In other regions (northern/eastern United States, parts of South America, much of Europe, and South East Asia) surplus water supply could in principle support a net increase in irrigation, although substantial investments in irrigation infrastructure would be required.
Knox J, Hess T, Daccache A, Wheeler T. 2012. Climate change impacts on crop productivity in Africa and South Asia. Environmental Research Letters 7:034032.http://dx.doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/7/3/034032
Climate change is a serious threat to crop productivity in regions that are already food insecure. We assessed the projected impacts of climate change on the yield of eight major crops in Africa and South Asia using a systematic review and meta-analysis of data in 52 original publications from an initial screen of 1144 studies. Here we show that the projected mean change in yield of all crops is -8% by the 2050s in both regions. Across Africa, mean yield changes of -17% (wheat), -5% (maize), -15% (sorghum) and -10% (millet) and across South Asia of -16% (maize) and -11% (sorghum) were estimated. No mean change in yield was detected for rice. The limited number of studies identified for cassava, sugarcane and yams precluded any opportunity to conduct a meta-analysis for these crops. Variation about the projected mean yield change for all crops was smaller in studies that used an ensemble of >3 climate (GCM) models. Conversely, complex simulation studies that used biophysical crop models showed the greatest variation in mean yield changes. Evidence of crop yield impact in Africa and South Asia is robust for wheat, maize, sorghum and millet, and either inconclusive, absent or contradictory for rice, cassava and sugarcane.
Vermeulen SJ, Campbell BM, Ingram SJI. 2012. Climate Change and Food Systems. Annual Review of Environment and Resources 37:195-222.http://dx.doi.org/10.1146/annurev-environ-020411-130608 Food systems contribute 19%–29% of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, releasing 9,800–16,900 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e) in 2008. Agricultural production, including indirect emissions associated with land-cover change, contributes 80%–86% of total food system emissions, with significant regional variation. The impacts of global climate change on food systems are expected to be widespread, complex, geographically and temporally variable, and profoundly influenced by socioeconomic conditions. Historical statistical studies and integrated assessment models provide evidence that climate change will affect agricultural yields and earnings, food prices, reliability of delivery, food quality, and, notably, food safety. Low-income producers and consumers of food will be more vulnerable to climate change owing to their comparatively limited ability to invest in adaptive institutions and technologies under increasing climatic risks. Some synergies among food security, adaptation, and mitigation are feasible. But promising interventions, such as agricultural intensification or reductions in waste, will require careful management to distribute costs and benefits effectively.
Funder M, Fjalland J, Ravnborg HM, Egelund H. 2009. Low Carbon Development and poverty Alleviation. DIIS Report 2009:20. Copenhagen, Denmark: Danish Institute for International Studies.http://pure.diis.dk/ws/files/61228/DIIS_Report_2009_20_Low_Carbon_Development_and_Poverty_Alleviation.pdf This report presents the main findings from a desk study on “Climate change mitigation and poverty reduction in developing countries: opportunities for development cooperation” undertaken by the Danish Institute for International Studies with funding from the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The study identifies practical options for combining low carbon development with poverty reduction and economic growth in Least Developed Countries (LDCs), with a focus on energy, agriculture and forestry.
Smith P et al. 2007. Agriculture. In: Metz B et al., (Eds.). 2007. Climate Change: Mitigation. Contribution of WG III to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.https://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar4/wg3/ar4-wg3-chapter8.pdf Agricultural lands (lands used for agricultural production, consisting of cropland, managed grassland and permanent crops including agro-forestry and bio-energy crops) occupy about 40- 50% of the Earth’s land surface. Agriculture accounted for an estimated emission of 5.1 to 6.1 GtCO2-eq/yr in 2005 (10-12% of total global anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs)). A variety of options exists for mitigation of GHG emissions in agriculture. The most prominent options are improved crop and grazing land management (e.g., improved agronomic practices, nutrient use, tillage, and residue management), restoration of organic soils that are drained for crop production and restoration of degraded lands. Lower but still significant mitigation is possible with improved water and rice management; set-asides, land use change (e.g., conversion of cropland to grassland) and agro-forestry; as well as improved livestock and manure management. Many mitigation opportunities use current technologies and can be implemented immediately, but technological development will be a key driver ensuring the efficacy of additional mitigation measures in the future (high agreement, much evidence). Overall, the outlook for GHG mitigation in agriculture suggests that there is significant potential (high agreement, medium evidence). Current initiatives suggest that synergy between climate change policies, sustainable development and improvement of environmental quality will likely lead the way forward to realize the mitigation potential in this sector.