30 years

Climate smart farming practices

After decades of deforestation in Niger, leading to serious soil erosion and dramatically declining yields for crop and livestock, a rural regeneration project in the Maradi region is encouraging farmers to allow the stumps of felled indigenous trees to regrow. Producers are also planting new trees to replace some of those destroyed over the years. As a result, they are being rewarded with less soil erosion, rising water tables, higher crop yields, better availability of firewood and fewer pests and diseases. A recent study by the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) showed that this practice, known as farmer-managed natural regeneration (FMNR), has more than tripled yields of millet, from 150 kg/hectares(ha) to 500 kg/ha. Overall, the changes brought about by FMNR have been calculated as having an annual value of US$56 per ha.

This is just one of many stories told in a booklet that describes how farmers around the world are using climate smart practices to adapt to shifts in temperature and rainfall and in some cases mitigate climate change. Climate-smart agriculture – success stories from farming communities around the world, jointly published by CTA and the Climate Change Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), describes 18 farming-related activities that have helped to reduce farmers' vulnerability to climate change, improve food security and reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.


Climate smart success stories

In Niger's fragile Maradi region, more than 5 million ha of land have now been restored, with over 200 million trees re-established or planted. The initiative has resulted in an additional annual half million tonnes of grain production and enough fodder to sustain larger herds of livestock. To date, it has improved the food security of about 2.5 million people and the practices have spread to communities in neighbouring Burkina Faso, Mali and Senegal.

In 13 African countries, where rising temperatures are predicted to reduce maize yields by up to 40% by 2030, the Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa Initiative (DTMA) has developed and released more than 100 new drought-tolerant varieties and hybrids. Each new variety is adapted to local requirements, including cooking and milling properties and pest and disease resistance. More than 2 million small-scale farmers in sub-Saharan Africa are now growing the varieties, reporting a 20-30% increase in yields.

Meanwhile, Ethiopia's Productive Safety Net Programme and Household Asset Building Programme have improved the food security and climate change resilience of nearly 8 million households. And in Kenya, local farmers are earning carbon credits for implementing land management practices that reduce carbon emissions. The project is helping farmers in the Kisumu and Kitale districts of western Kenya, where most smallholders farm less than one hectare each of highly degraded land. The initiative is encouraging farmers to adopt sustainable agricultural land management (SALM) practices, such as reduced tillage, use of cover crops and green manure, mulching, targeted application of fertiliser and agroforestry.

Implementing agency Vi Agroforestry helps to audit the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and sells the gains to the World Bank's BioCarbon Fund. A proportion of the proceeds – 60 per cent – is then distributed between farmer groups.

To date, 15,000 farmers in 800 farmer groups have adopted SALM practices, which have been applied to 12,000 ha of degraded land. The target is to enrol 60,000 farmers and apply SALM practices to 45,000 ha by 2016.

Vi Agroforestry estimates this would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 60,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalents each year, while also restoring degraded land, boosting crop yields and reducing the vulnerability of farmers to climate change. According to the World Bank, the project will bring direct benefits of US$350,000 to local communities, as well as payments from the BioCarbon Fund itself.

Further reading

Farmings climate smart future