Experience with climate-smart agriculture (CSA) initiatives increasingly shows that delivering green services in isolation is an ineffective approach that produces disappointing outcomes. The provision of ‘bundled’ of products which are suited to farmers requirements is far more likely to promote CSA uptake, increasing sustainability and resilience to climate change as a result. Examples from different CTA projects show this approach in action.
Fatima is a farmer who grows crops and rears animals in Ayigbe rural community in Wenchi, Ghana to sell on the open market. She practises rainfed agriculture but complains that rainfall patterns are unpredictable or late, which makes it difficult for her to decide when to plant her crops and avoid losing them to drought.
Cocoa farmer Manti experiences similar challenges so has turned to producing charcoal as a way of supplementing his income. Due to the lack of electricity and high price of gas, charcoal is a popular and affordable energy source for many in his rural community. But charcoal production involves felling trees, resulting in deforestation, environmental degradation and global warming.
Not just technical knowledge
These stories paint a picture that matches the experiences of many rural farmers in ACP countries severely affected by climate change. FAO predicts that the global population is likely to increase to 50 billion by 2050, with most people located in developing countries, and vulnerable to climate change. But how do farmers view climate-smart agriculture (CSA), and what can enhance their capacity to adopt CSA solutions to ensure sustainable production and income?
Increasingly, it appears that technical knowledge alone may not be sufficient to increase farmer uptake of CSA practices. An approach based on making single green services available fails to consider other needs and circumstances. For example, helping Fatima to introduce good agronomic practices might increase crop yields, but she is also likely to need financial assistance and a good telecommunication network to enhance extension services. Most importantly, the services need to be market led, to ensure sustainability, and farmers need better access to markets, to secure adequate returns for their climate-smart efforts.
Bundled services in action
Bundled CSA services can come in different forms, but they must be designed to complement each other, if they are to provide the intended results. That may mean combining the public and private sectors. A case in point is Promoting of competitiveness of agriculture value in the Dominican Republic, a CTA-led project that partners with a private microfinance institute (ADOPEM) to provide micro-credits to farmers to implement good agricultural practices. Participating farmers are trained in sustainable agriculture and provided with services along the value chain for tuber crops, including marketing, storage, and handling of produce during transportation. As a result of this training, yields improved with banana rejection rates falling from 40% to 30% and exports of bananas boxes rose from 1,080 to 5,200.
The Scaling-up CSA solutions for cereals and livestock farmers in Southern Africa project offers farmers a bundled package that includes access to credit facilities, provision of extension services via SMS, and information about CSA practices in local languages. In Zimbabwe, the services are provided through the country’s Farmers Union, with information dissemination and digital registration of farmers handled by private telecommunications provider Econet. Overall, the project will increase the uptake of weather-based insurance by smallholder farmers; improve farmer’s access to weather information through the use of ICTs; improve access to technical interventions that increase crop productivity; and reduce risks under a changing climate.
Another example of a bundling service is CTA’s CLI-MARK project, which is working with private and public sector actors to scale up market mechanisms that increase the adaptive capacity of pastoralists in northern Kenya and southern Ethiopia. CTA has teamed up with the International Institute of Rural Reconstruction; the International Livestock Research Institute; private livestock insurers, Takaful Insurance in Kenya, and Oromia Insurance in Ethiopia; and weather data company aWhere, to facilitate the following:
- design and delivery of a blended weather information system that incorporates the best of scientific and indigenous weather knowledge systems;
- develop and implement mechanisms to scale up livestock insurance among pastoralists;
- boost markets, trade and enterprises for women and youth to increase incomes and sustainable practices.
Through CLI-MARK, women’s producer groups have been able to increase fodder production, which has enabled livestock keepers to purchase bales of hay at much cheaper prices. All the indications are that a mix of blended interventions involving public and private sector players have a far better chance of producing long-term behaviour change that can lead to sustainable impact.