Climate-smart soils: testing soil health in Western Kenya

Peer-learning in climate-smart agriculture

Climate-smart soils: testing soil health in Western Kenya

© Georgina Smith / CIAT

Tuesday, 5 December 2017 Updated on Sunday, 10 December 2017

Climate change and its impacts on smallholder farmers in developing countries is a topical issue. As such, peer-learning in climate-smart agriculture (CSA) gives stakeholders an equal chance to address this challenge in their contexts and at their pace.

The global conference brought together partners in global agriculture, including the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), and was held under the theme, “Catalyzing local innovations and actions to accelerate scaling up of CSA”. Its main focus was on implementation, results and impact in CSA, and was centred on plenary presentations, side events, and parallel sessions.

According to the organizers, the five conference objectives were identified as to 

  • Highlight emerging science and innovations on Climate Smart Agriculture nexus, focusing on agricultural landscapes and food systems; 
  • showcase experiences and lessons in science-policy interactions fostering accelerated up-take of CSA; 
  • Examine circumstance-specific conditions for success for CSA within Sustainable Development Goals and Paris Agreement; 
  • Networking and opening or consolidation opportunities for collaboration and alliances on CSA; and 
  • Stimulate dialogue between scientists and practitioners (policymakers, business, civil society, and farmers).

Plenary presentation: scaling-up climate-smart agriculture

In a first of three main presentations by CTA at the global conference, Dr. Olu Ajayi, Senior Programme Coordinator, CTA, shared with delegates, on behalf of the Director, Michael Hailu, on “Promoting policies and practices on CSA: lessons and experiences from the field in Africa, Caribbean, and the Pacific”. He pointed out while the technical advances on CSA were well-known, it is important to encourage the science that underlines the scaling-up of CSA and to inform development and policy efforts on CSA to benefit farmers, youths and women.

Drawing from various activities carried out by CTA on climate change in ACP, Dr Ajayi synthesized key lessons for scaling up CSA as follows: 

  • Harness the power of ICT to promote CSA 
  • Establish business case and innovative partnership to scale up CSA 
  • Identify and facilitate livelihood opportunities for the youth through CSA
  • facilitate access to information on CSA and promote co-creation of knowledge with farmers 
  • Complement policy engagement with field activities in the implementation of CSA.

Citing from CTA’s ongoing work to promote bundle of climate solutions to farmers in three countries in southern Africa region, he highlighted how CTA and partners are harnessing the ICT tools to promote a bundle of CSA solutions and building coalition of partners drawn from private sector, insurance, knowledge generators, producer associations and policymakers to reach out to farmers

CTA has supported various innovations in the digital world such as the APPS4AG database, AgriHack, and ICT4Ag Conference held in Rwanda. The work in digital agriculture follows emerging evidence from the field. In Sudan, Short Message Service-based advisory services led to farm productivity increased by 300% with improved water efficiency. Other studies also showed that in Ghana and Rwanda, digital payments cut the transaction costs for farmers and agribusinesses by 90%.

Lessons on policy and partnership models to scale-up CSA

In the second and third presentation, Dr Ajayi presented a joint work by himself and Dr Kadzamira focusing on “Lessons on policy and partnership models to scale up CSA: Case of Southern Africa”.

The presentation, based on CTA’s Southern Africa project, recognized that extra household factors (policy) and type of partnership implementation model influence the decision on CSA. Malawi (single partner), Zambia (triple partners) and Zimbabwe (dual partners) are the three countries in the project, whose goal is to improve food security and income of farmers under climate uncertainties.

Preliminary results from the country case studies showed that at the policy level, stabilities of policies matter to attract investment and that communication on CSA policy matters. At the field level, Ajayi noted that sustainable partnership to scale-up CSA increases when there exist well-defined and mutual benefits for all partners. Transparency, trust, shared decision-making made partnerships to be strong and vibrant.

A new book “Indigenous knowledge systems and climate change management in Africa” was launched

Perhaps, the key feature of the global conference was the official launch of a new book on Indigenous knowledge systems and climate change management in Africa, co-edited by Dr Olu Ajayi and Prof. Paramu Mafongoya of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

The book launch was done at the plenary session of the conference. The book consists of 15 chapters drawn from specific case studies on different uses of indigenous knowledge for prediction of climate, animal behaviour, to facilitate decision-making in managing and adapting to climate risks explores three questions:

  • What different are IK practices still used by smallholder farmers in Africa to manage climate change?
  • To what extent is IK actions still relevant in contemporary situations, taking into account population growth and climate change?
  • What can we learn from the knowledge that farmers have acquired over generations as they continuously contend with the impact of climate change?

Speakers at the book launch including officials from FARA, USDA, AGRA, CRS congratulated CTA, the editors and authors for sharing information contained in the book.

Climate-smart soils: testing soil health in Western Kenya

Climate-smart soils: testing soil health in Western Kenya

© Georgina Smith / CIAT

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