Climate-Smart Agriculture

February 12, 2024
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Learn why everyone is talking about Climate-Smart Agriculture and what it means for future food security amidst climate change.

Climate-Smart Agriculture

The Climate Smart Agriculture term has entered the global market as a direct response to climate change.  Although climate shift in general is a complex topic, at this time it’s set to have a major impact on future food security. U.S. Department of Agriculture is bringing this topic to the forefront of conversations as it is an essential part of climate and agricultural impact.    

What is Climate-Smart Agriculture?

In simplified terms, climate-smart agriculture is a set of farming methods that help farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners respond to climate change. The main mission of CSA is to support food security by addressing the challenges of climate change.

With the global agrifood system emitting one-third of all emissions, there is a growing need for an approach that helps guide actions to transform agri-food systems towards green and climate-resilient practices. Not only the USDA but also the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations are hard at work to develop practices that increase productivity, enhance resilience, and reduce emissions.

CSA recommendations are context-specific and can be affected by local economic, environmental, and climate change factors. The main goal of CSA is to create and support policies, strengthen national and local institutions, and provide additional funding and access to financing options to make implementation possible on a local level.

How can CSA improve agriculture in the long term?

Increased Productivity

Increased productivity can be gained by growing better-quality foods without putting a strain on natural resources. Making changes by transitioning to low-till farming, using cover crops, or introducing precise lower amounts of carbon fertilizer can help with minimum soil disturbance and lower greenhouse gas emissions.

Improved Resilience

Enhanced resilience can be achieved by reducing vulnerability to droughts, pests, diseases, and other climate-related risks and shocks. An important part of this strategy is improving the capacity to adapt and grow in the face of longer-term stresses.  From climate-resilient crop varieties, rotational stocking systems, and water management, farmers create a more resilient business environment.

Reduced Emissions

Reduced emissions can be attained by mitigating greenhouse gas emissions of the food system and avoiding deforestation due to cropland expansion.  

Global Approach to Climate-Smart Agriculture

Climate-smart agriculture isn’t exceptionally different from sustainable agriculture but it’s a way of combining sustainable methods to take on specific climate challenges of a farming community.  

The long-term climate is set to directly disrupt food security. From reducing overall access to food to affecting food quality, it’s becoming a real danger. As of March 2023, 8.5% of the world’s population (659 million people) lived in poverty. Without delivering solutions, falling crop yields, especially in the world's most food-insecure regions, will push even more people into poverty.   

CSA is reaching internationally agreed goals such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and aligning the World Bank Operations with the Paris Agreement. To reach the Paris Agreement’s objectives, significant climate mitigation action in the agri-food sector must be achieved. Agriculture, being the primary cause of deforestation, puts large and important ecosystems in danger. Since the Paris Agreement requires parties to use CSA practices, it’s becoming a major part of new agriculture operations.  

Climate Smart Agriculture has recently also become a staple in humanitarian organizations, including the previously mentioned World Bank. As of July 2023, CSA is at the core of all the World Bank's new agriculture and food operations. This is significant progress when it comes to reducing greenhouse gases and building resilience to climate change.   

Why is CSA different?

While many practices are climate-smart, CSA isn’t exactly a universal set of defined rules. Instead, it is an approach to agriculture that involves many different elements.

The overall methodology begins with expanding the evidence base, which is made up of the current and projected effects of climate change. Identifying key vulnerabilities in the agricultural sector and food security is the key to the effective implementation of the CSA. 

The other part is the development of relevant policies, plans, investments, and coordination across processes and institutions responsible for agriculture, climate change, food security, and land use.

The final element of the CSA approach is enhancing financing options by linking and blending climate and agricultural finance and investments from the public and private sectors.

While the above summarizes the three major objectives, sustainably increasing agricultural productivity, adapting, and building resilience to climate change; and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, CSA is overall the main way to help reduce the climate impact in modern agriculture.