Climate-Smart Food and Agriculture Systems
Millions of people rely on agriculture for their livelihoods, but this sector is highly vulnerable to climate change. Agricultural communities, government institutions, civil society and private sector actors, among others, are critical to catalyzing shifts towards climate-smart agriculture and food systems.
Agriculture and Climate Resilience Go Hand-in-Hand
Agriculture is the primary livelihood for about one billion around the world. Changes in weather patterns and extreme climatic events — droughts, floods and increasingly unpredictable rainfall — disrupt agriculture and livestock production, deeply impacting the food security and nutrition of households and communities.
People around the world — from scientists and policymakers to farmers and ranchers — are rising to these challenges by adopting evidence-based climate-smart agriculture approaches to achieve a resilient, low emission, equitable and food-secure future.
Feeding the World, Protecting the Planet
Climate-Smart Food and Agriculture Systems Approach
Farmers need access to and investment in appropriate climate-smart technologies, practices, and approaches that increase productivity, build farmers’ resilience to climate change, and decrease greenhouse gas emissions. A climate-smart food and agriculture systems approach:
- Strengthens farmers’ and pastoralists’ ability to produce, sell and distribute food, which is essential to community food security and nutrition.
- Improves access to quality information, inputs, training and markets. Support household resilience through opportunities to diversify outside of and between crop production, animal rearing and fisheries practices.
- Promotes best practices at farm and landscape levels, such as soil and water conservation, that build resilience to climate shocks and stresses while reducing agriculture’s contributions to climate change.
- Provides access to government and private sector services and programs that contribute to climate-smart agriculture. This includes climate information services, crop insurance and land tenure and land use policies that reduce risk and incentivize sustainable production.
- Ensures that local communities and critical populations, such as women, youth, disabled and indigenous peoples, are meaningfully engaged in and lead climate-smart agriculture efforts to achieve effective and equitable outcomes.
Climate-Smart Agriculture Practices
According to the World Bank, climate-smart agriculture is “an integrated approach to managing landscapes—cropland, livestock, forests and fisheries—that addresses the interlinked challenges of food security and accelerating climate change.” This approach increases productivity, enhances resilience and reduces emission with impacts not only on the farm, but across the landscape. Identifying the best climate-smart agriculture practices requires understanding the context. Climate-smart agriculture practices can protect farmland and enhance productive soil for generations to come, foster long-term resilience.
A study conducted in Malawi with the support of Feed the Future, the U.S. government’s global hunger and food security initiative, examined factors that motivate small-scale farmers to adopt climate-smart agriculture. Results indicated that small-scale farmers look to the behavior of their neighbors as an important influence on their own decision to adopt new practices. Farmers were more likely to adopt climate-smart techniques when they saw their neighbors implementing them first. In fact, neighbors influenced the small-scale farmers in the study even more than financial incentives.
Youth can also be effective in scaling new climate-smart agriculture practices. The Leveraging Economic Opportunities (LEO) Study consulted Feed the Future programs working with nearly 400 youth across all 19 Feed the Future countries, aiming to inform efforts to more strategically and deliberately engage youth in agricultural productivity and local market systems. LEO found that, compared to their older counterparts, youth are more willing and better prepared to adopt new agricultural practices and technologies, both at the farm level and throughout value chains. Both Guatemalan and Nepalese youth, for example, had a keen interest in programs that utilized innovative biological pest control techniques. Learn more about the LEO study and its findings.
Gender Equity in Agriculture
Climate change impacts women through food insecurity, water scarcity and increasing inequality. In many countries where USAID works, there exists a persistent gender digital divide, greatly impacting women’s ability to contribute to and make use of digitally-enabled climate information services. Work by CGIAR suggests that climate-smart agriculture interventions can build momentum toward an equitable future where women have agency in responding to climate change when they incorporate at least two of the following four actions:
- Ensure women participate in decision-making at all levels
- Reduce women’s work burden
- Provide women with access to and support their use of resources, such as agroclimatic information, technology, livelihood incomes and credit
- Support collective action
USAID’s Climate Strategy emphasizes the need for locally led initiatives that strengthen equity and inclusion — especially those partnerships that engage Indigenous people, further women’s empowerment or promote youth development.
Inclusive livestock management is helping mitigate climate change and bolster household resilience in Haiti.
More About Climate-Smart Food and Agriculture Systems
FAO Social Protection Framework
26 Jun 2023 - Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Discover FAO’s approach to social protection and learn how FAO promotes inclusive systems, sustainable practices and resilience in rural communities.
International Conference on Community-Based Adaptation to Climate Change
22 May 2023, GMT +7 - Global Resilience Partnership
CBA17 brings together a wide range of stakeholders working at all levels and scales to discuss how we can drive ambition for a climate-resilient future.
Assessing Communities' Coping Strategies During the Current Drought in Somalia
27 Apr 2023 - Somalia Resilience Population-Level Measurement Activity , Mercy Corps , USAID
The Somalia Resilience Population-Level Measurement Activity explores how households in Somalia are responding to the challenges of drought.
Meeting Immediate Needs and Protecting Development Gains
20 Apr 2023 - USAID , Mercy Corps
After four failed rainy seasons, the Resilience in Pastoral Areas-North Program took a market-driven response to drought in Ethiopia’s Somali region.