Climate solutions that work for farmers

Smallholder farmers in developing countries are likely to be among the people hardest hit by climate change because of agriculture’s dependence on weather and the low level of resilience of farming to climate variability and change.

The good news is that innovative approaches are being developed to meet this challenge. One of these approaches – climate-smart agriculture – aims to increase farm productivity and incomes in a sustainable manner, enable farmers to adapt and build resilience to climate change and (where possible) reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Active farmer participation is widely seen as a key ingredient for success. Frequently, this involves building strong farmer institutions which can mobilise farmers and liaise with extension agencies and others involved in project management. If projects are designed in such a way as to be attractive to young people, then so much the better. This might involve the use of innovative ICTs, in which young people tend to be particularly adept. If projects are to be successful, they should be based on proven benefits, and ideally they should lead to immediate improvements in terms of incomes and livelihoods. Several of the case study leaders discussed the importance of over-

the-fence learning: farmers are more likely to adopt new technologies when they see that they have been successfully implemented by other farmers, especially in their village or surrounding villages.

A range of factors are likely to help trigger widespread scaling up and adoption of new practices and technologies. Local champions can help to build enthusiasm and spread the message. Capacity building will often play an important role. This may involve both government extension agencies and the private sector. Ideally, technologies should be simple, effective and provide immediate benefits for those adopting them. Farmers will often need access to good information and credit. The market is also important: there is no point in introducing a new climate-smart variety of sorghum if nobody is willing to buy it. Several case study leaders pointed out that successful projects often depend on the involvement of the private sector.

There are many examples of seemingly successful technologies and innovations which have not caught on in any significant way. Case study leaders discussed some of the pitfalls that need to be avoided when attempting to scale up new practices and technologies. Projects which involve high levels of initial investment or drudgery, fail to attract young people, and are costly in terms of time and labour are unlikely to be successful. Lack of information and the failure to successfully involve farmers in the design and implementation of projects are also likely to lead to failure, as is inadequate technical support.

This booklet has provided a brief overview of 14 case studies which have been supported by CTA under the project “Documentation of proven practices, tools or policies that promote resilience and help farmers to address the challenges posed by climate change.” A more comprehensive peer-reviewed account of these stories will be published by CTA in 2016 (Ajayi et al. 2016).

In the meantime, readers can learn more about climate-smart agricultural practices from two booklets, jointly published by CTA and the CCAFS:

  • Climate-smart Agriculture: Success Stories from Farming Communities Around the World (CTA 2013)
  • Evidence of Impact: Climate-smart Agriculture in Africa (CTA 2014)