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Multi-stakeholder platforms and alliances advance climate-smart agriculture in Africa

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Multi-stakeholder platforms seek to improve food nutrition, security and resilience in the context of a changing climate

© FAO/Alessandra Benedett

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Climate-smart agriculture (CSA) is increasingly gaining momentum as countries develop technologies and practices to combat the impacts of climate change. But while the concept of CSA may seem obvious, it is more complex than it appears. This is compounded by the fact that most countries have not developed clear indicators for CSA technologies and practices. Questions remain as to how CSA differs from other types of agriculture, and what needs to be done differently to qualify as CSA.

This is where multi-stakeholders platforms come in. Organisations such as the CGIAR Research Programme on Climate Change Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Co-operation ACP-EU (CTA), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), the Food Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN), AU-NEPAD, CARE International, Catholic Relief Services, Concern Worldwide, Oxfam and World Vision are working together to establish CSA multi-stakeholder platforms at global, continental and national scales.

The Global Climate Smart Agriculture Alliance (GACSA) is a multi-stakeholder platform that seeks to improve food nutrition, security and resilience in the context of a changing climate. Drawing from GACSA, the Africa Climate-Smart Agriculture Alliance was formed to leverage policy, technical and financing support for grassroots national and regional level programmes and initiatives that can drive the widespread adoption of CSA practices throughout sub-Saharan Africa.

As a result, a number of alliances, partnerships and networks have been established to support the rapid scaling-up of climate-smart agriculture across Africa, through collaborative efforts and practical, on-the-ground experience. Countries such as Tanzania have formed a national CSA alliance, and Kenya – having launched a climate-smart agriculture strategy – is now forming a national CSA alliance to support implementation at local level.

Harmonised approaches

In Malawi, the Agroforestry Policy Working Group (AFPWG) was established to scale up agroforestry-based CSA innovations for farmers. The aim was to ensure buy-in and support from various departments and the World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF), which is keen to promote agroforestry. Members were drawn from the following departments, whose support was deemed crucial for the successful and sustained adoption of agroforestry by farmers.

  • Land Resources and Conservation Department: essential because trees grow on land, and policies on land issue are critical for successful agroforestry.
  • Department of Agricultural Extension Services: this department has the official mandate for disseminating information related to farmers.
  • Department of forestry: this has the official mandate related to trees.
  • Land Resources Centre: this institution focuses on seed production for agroforestry-based practices.

The purpose of the working group was to harmonise approaches to agroforestry, and identify specific policy constraints that limit the spread of agroforestry among farmers.

The policy platform commissioned an appraisal of the various strategies of the different departments to identify key areas of concern that could influence farmers’ decision to plant trees on their farms. The working group also proved useful in helping departments to appreciate the contributions and importance of the other departments, supporting each other in making a concerted effort to promote agroforestry.

Challenges and lessons

It is increasingly evident that such platforms work, but they require a great deal of dedication and commitment to keep them vibrant and relevant. Challenges to get right include:

  • Keeping momentum among members – alliances must be kept relevant and vibrant to have consistent and active participation. Having a thematic approach to address different components of CSA could contribute to keeping the alliances active.
  • Financing joint activities – there are various cost implications associated with keeping the alliances active, and members need to identify how to ensure sustainability.
  • Managing expectations at community/local level – in some cases CSA is presented as the silver bullet to address the challenges of climate change at local level. However, it is important to remember that solutions must be context specific.
  • Translating science evidence into policy – while there are several research initiatives testing different CSA technologies and practices, the findings need to be communicated to policy-makers in a clear manner.

Integrating different types of knowledge - alliances should acknowledge that a wide range of different organisations, such as producers and producer organisations, have knowledge and skills based on the CSA technologies and practices they implement, and their contributions whether technological, scientific or organisational should be recognised.

This article was created through a CTA-led process to document and share actionable knowledge on 'what works' for ACP agriculture. It capitalises on the insights, lessons and experiences of practitioners to inform and guide the implementation of agriculture for development projects.

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