Mainstreaming Climate-Smart Agriculture

Dr. Ranjan Roy

5 March, 2021 12:00 AM printer

Mainstreaming Climate-Smart Agriculture

Dr. Ranjan Roy

Agriculture is a major part of the climate problem. However, agriculture is a solution for climate change too. Agriculture, forestry and other land-use cause almost one quarter of human greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In contrast, one third of solutions for attaining climate goals come from agriculture. To achieve Paris Climate Goals (i.e., limiting global warming to well below 2, preferably to 1.5°C, compared to pre-industrial levels), the agricultural sector must reduce GHG emissions. More importantly, incremental emissions from agriculture have to be decreased from ever-increasing agricultural activities to feed an expanding people.

To feed a burgeoning population (about 10 Billion by 2050) the world needs to produce 60% more food. Presumably, more food production will pose an additional threat to natural resources (land, water and biodiversity) that are already in an exposed state. Climate change is increasingly posing a serious threat to agricultural systems. For instance, freshwater availability for farming has been a growing concern throughout the world, particularly in Africa and Asia. Hence, solutions for increasing agricultural production as well as building resilience and promoting climate change, adaptation and mitigation are essential. The ‘climate-smart agriculture’ (CSA) is a holistic solution in response to these challenges.

According to the World Bank, “CAS is an integrated approach to managing landscapes – cropland, livestock, forests and fisheries – that address the interlinked challenges of food security and climate change.” Its aim to reduce the exposure of farmers to short-term risks, increase adaptive capacity and strengthen resilience to long-term stresses (prolonged droughts) and shocks (flash flood). To achieve these aims, CSA approach needs a special policy-framework to implement at local, regional and national levels.

Mainstreaming simply means the integration of CSA into development planning and policies. This integration starts with existing policies, strategies and practices, rather than creating new ones. Mainstreaming, therefore, promotes agriculture by making more sustainable, effective and efficient use of scarce natural resources, rather than building separate institutions and processes to support CSA. The mainstreaming processes also enhance policy coherence (i.e., promotion of mutually reinforcing policy actions) and coordination.

Mainstreaming CSA might launch with determining the ‘entry-points' where the initial investment is required. Entry points can be determined at the national (Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper, budget allocation processes or reviews and others), sectoral (sector strategies, plans and policies) and sub-sectoral (district plans and programs) level. This determination maps the governmental, institutional and political contexts, raises awareness and builds partnerships with ministries and organisations whose main portfolios are beyond agricultural development, and assesses the institutional and capacity needs.

A key part of mainstreaming is to integrate CSA into core government policies, planning and strategies as stated. Major sectoral policies like the National Agricultural Policy, National Water Policy and National Seed Policy have to be clearly articulated CSA approaches, technologies and practices that bring productivity gains, enhance resilience and reduce emissions. The CSA policies must be planned and implemented at the national and sub-national levels.

National development strategies, namely, Bangladesh's 8th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025), Perspective Plan of Bangladesh 2021-2041, and Sustainable Development Strategy must include climate-smart policy measures (building on national communications and NAPA) and strategies for strengthening institutions and capacities. A plethora of measures might build confidence in private sector investment and make the stakeholder well aware of realising the potential of marketing of CSA technologies both at different levels.

The Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan (BCCSAP) is the main basis of our efforts to combat climate change over the next ten years. The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate change needs to work in line with ministries and agencies for initiating and implementing projects and programmes that contribute to broader economic growth, poverty reduction and sustainable development goals. This ministry should also provide an enabling environment for the adoption of CSA by the private and public sectors.

The policies and strategies of CSA have to be coherent with the country’s long-run goals. For instance, the Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100 set a goal of ‘achieving a safe, climate resilient and prosperous delta’. They should also be coherent with the existing long-term policies like the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), and Sustainable Development Goals. The CSA policy-framework also should take care of gender issues, protections to climate-vulnerable poor populations and ecosystem-sustainability.

A trade-off between ‘subsidies’ and ‘incentives to CSA Practices’ is essential to mainstreaming CSA. Subsidising fertilisers, water, and pesticides may lead to an unsustainable system that is not climate-smart. Governments need to be judicious in subsidising chemical fertilisers. Instead, they require giving ‘price-support’ and/or redirecting energy/fertiliser/water-subsidies towards CSA policies by providing ‘incentives to CSA practices’. For instance, fertiliser subsidy is allowed up to 50 kg per hectare use only in Tanzania. Good examples of “incentives to CSA practices” are incentives for residue management, granular urea application, green manures/natural pesticides production, and bio-ethanol production from sugarcane trashes.

Agricultural extension services providing authorities should invest in ‘increase in system productivity’. The DAE needs country-wide initiatives for dissemination and adoption of popular CSA practices like sustainable crop production intensification, stress-tolerant rice varieties cultivation and laser-controlled land levelling. Likewise, proactive measures are needed to increase the productivity of livestock, aquaculture, and fisheries by using CSA practices and technologies such as rotational grazing, integrated soil-crop-water management, rice-fish system, rice-duck system and ecosystem approaches to fisheries and aquaculture.

Building systems’ resilience (for example, physical, social and economic resilience) requires numerous initiatives of the respective ministries, NARS institutions and organisations. Investments are essential for increasing soil fertility, water quality and quantity and quality seed supply, and increasing physical resilience. Increasing product diversification, market information, tax relaxation and providing crop insurance are strategies of boosting economic resilience

To promote CSA, governments’ measures are crucial for enhancing climate change adaptation (and mitigation). Diversification of livelihoods through diversifying crops, fisheries and livestock production, processing and marketing is critical. Investments are required in climate-risk warning systems and seasonal forecasting to reduce agricultural vulnerability.

Incremental climate proofing through improving irrigation and drainage systems and adoption of stresses-tolerant crop varieties would be significant actions for adaptation. Notably, the BRRI has developed 24 stress-tolerant rice varieties, of which ten are saline tolerant, three submergences, three droughts, four cold, two tidal submergences, one semi-deep water and one dual tolerant (Sal+Subm) to reduce climate vulnerabilities.

The DAE, DoF and DLS need short, medium and long-term strategies for human capacity development in response to climate change. The World Bank’s flagship report “The Next Frontier – Human Development and the Anthropocene” draws critical directives about human development to achieve sustainability in the 21st century.

Direct finance options for CSA practices are virtually non-existent.  To attract finance for CSA, a key strategy would be building an evidence base to identify the most suitable activities, e.g. explicitly accounting for adaptation and mitigation impacts. The national and international financing organisations like GOs, NGOs, POs, banks, development partners and social-welfare groups should join together for long-term investment for promoting CSA.

The mainstreaming of CSA requires proactive planning and execution of policies, practices and financing for food security, adaptation and mitigation. In a nutshell, mainstreaming CSA requires changing the policy-portfolios as changing in socio-cultural and political outlooks.


The writer is a Professor, Department of Agricultural Extension and Information System, Sher-e-Bangla Agricultural University, Dhaka