October 16th is World Food Day. This year’s theme is “Climate is changing. Food and agriculture must too.”
Agriculture is already changing dramatically under climate change, whether we like it or not. Crops and crop varieties that once grew well in certain areas can no longer stand the heat or drought, and increasingly severe floods are washing away whole harvests. Adapting agriculture to climate change, and reducing emissions from agriculture and land use (called mitigation), is perhaps the principal challenge before the planet as the earth warms. After all, agricultural production underpins all economic activity on earth.
EcoAgriculture Partners has been working for a decade with partner organizations and communities around the world, to test innovations, plan solutions, and build tools that help create climate-smart agricultural landscapes. Below is a snapshot of some our recent efforts, which are worth revisiting this World Food Day as we all consider how food and agriculture must change in a warming world.
Scaling up requires local institutional capacity
EcoAg’s Director of Policy and Markets Seth Shames led a participatory action research project with two ongoing agricultural carbon projects near Mt. Elgon, in Kenya and Uganda. The research question was not what practical farming practices could have the biggest adaptation and mitigation benefits: this was well-established. Rather, the project was investigating how to ensure that climate-smart agriculture efforts were able to be carried forward by local institutions, so that international partners could eventually step aside, enabling carbon finance to flow directly to communities. Answering this question is critical to the larger issue of how to scale up climate-smart agriculture around the world.
Produce the trainers manual with the trainers
To build local institutional capacity for climate-smart agriculture, we worked with the local program staff of ECOTRUST Uganda, together with the CGIAR Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security research program, to develop a manual for program staff to use when training farmers joining the program. Writing and illlustrating the manual helped all project partners reach a better understanding of the key knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed for farmers, and project staff, to successfully implement the agricultural carbon project.
From climate-smart agriculture to climate-smart landscapes
Climate smart agriculture is just one piece of a sustainable and resilient food system, and resilient communities, in a warming world. In 2012, Seth Shames, Sara Scherr and Rachel Friedman published research in the journal Agriculture and Food Security pointing to two key elements, in addition to climate-smart practices on the field and farm, that are needed for climate-smart landscapes: a diversity of land use across the landscape to provide resilience and management of the interactions between different land uses to achieve social, economic and ecological benefits. In a companion study, Shames, Friedman and consultant Tanja Havemann looked specifically at mechanisms to finance these additional activities.