Climate-smart agriculture

  • CSA is an approach to help people who manage agricultural systems respond effectively to climate change. It pursues triple objectives of (a) sustainably increasing productivity and incomes, (b) adapting to climate change (c) reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
  • This does not imply that every practice applied in every location should produce “triple wins.” Rather, CSA approach seeks to reduce trade-offs and promote synergies by taking these objectives into consideration to inform decisions from local to global scales and over short and long-time horizons, to derive locally acceptable solutions.
  • Majority of world’s poor live in rural areas and agriculture is their most important income source. Developing the potential to increase the productivity and incomes from smallholder crop, livestock, fish and forest production systems will be the key to achieving global food security over the next twenty years.
  • Climate change is expected to hit developing countries the hardest. Its effects include higher temperatures, changes in precipitation patterns, rising sea levels and more frequent extreme weather events. All these pose risks for agriculture, food and water supplies.
  • Resilience is therefore a predominant concern. Agriculture is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. Mitigation can often be a significant co-benefit of actions to strengthen adaptation and enhance food security, and thus mitigation action compatible with national development priorities for agriculture is an important aspect of CSA. 

CSA Approach

  • CSA is not a set of practices that can be universally applied, but rather an approach that involves different elements embedded in local contexts. CSA relates to actions both on-farm and beyond the farm, and incorporates technologies, policies, institutions and investment.

Elements of Climate Smart Agriculture

  • Management of farms, crops, livestock, aquaculture and capture fisheries to balance near-term food security and livelihoods needs with priorities for adaptation and mitigation.
  • Ecosystem and landscape management to conserve ecosystem services that are important for food security, agricultural development, adaptation and mitigation.
  • Services for farmers and land managers to enable better management of climate risks/impacts and mitigation actions.
  • Changes in the wider food system including demand-side measures and value chain interventions that enhance the benefits of CSA. 

Actions to implement a CSA approach include:

  • Expanding evidence base: The evidence base is made up of the current and projected effects of climate change in a country, identifying key vulnerabilities in agricultural sector and for food security, agriculture and the identification of effective adaptation options. It includes estimates of potential reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (or increased carbon sequestration) generated by adaptation strategies, information on costs and barriers to the adoption of different practices, issues related to the sustainability of production systems and the required policy and institutional responses to overcome them.
  • Supporting enabling policy frameworks: The approach supports development of relevant policies, plans, investments and coordination across processes and institutions responsible for agriculture, climate change, food security and land use.
  • Strengthening national and local institutions: Strong local institutions to empower, enable and motivate farmers are essential. Efforts also need to be made in building capacity of national policy makers to participate in international fora on climate change and agriculture and reinforce their engagement with local government authorities.
  • Enhancing financing options: Innovative financing mechanisms that link and blend climate and agricultural finance and investments from public and private sectors are key means of implementing CSA. New climate financing instruments such as the Green Climate Fund are currently under development and could be a way of spurring sustainable agricultural development. Strong and all-encompassing Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs) and National Adaptation Plans (NAPs) are key national policy instruments important in creating links to national and international sources of finance. National sector budgets and ODA will continue to be the main sources of funding; climate integration into sector planning and budgeting is therefore a prerequisite for successfully addressing climate change.
  • Implementing practices at field level: Farmers are primary custodians of knowledge about their environment, agro-ecosystems, crops, livestock, and local climatic patterns. Adapting to CSA must be related to local farmers’ knowledge, requirements and priorities. Local projects and institutions support farmers to identify suitable climate-smart options that can be easily adopted and implemented. Ex. Ex. Farmer Field Schools in Tanzania.

Sustainable agriculture practices

Agricultural Systems that can be adopted by farmers:

  1. Agroforestry.
  2. Precision farming
  3. Integrated pest management
  4. System of Rice Intensification
  5. Organic farming
  6. Conservation Agriculture
  7. Natural Farming
  8. Integrated Farming Systems
  9. Biodynamic Agriculture
  10. Permaculture

Sustainable practices that can be adopted by farmers:

  1. Crop Rotation
  2. Rainwater Harvesting
  3. Mulching
  4. Vermicomposting
  5. Contour Farming
  6. Cover crops
  7. Intercropping
  8. Floating farming


  • Scale-up could start with rainfed areas, as they are already practicing low-resource agriculture, have low productivity and stand to gain from the transition.
  • Restructure government support to farmers by aligning incentives towards resource conservation and by rewarding outcomes such as total farm productivity or enhanced ecosystem services rather than just outputs such as yields.
  • Support rigorous evidence generation through long-term comparative assessments of conventional, resource-intensive agriculture on the one hand and sustainable agriculture on the other.
  • Take steps to broaden the perspectives of stakeholders across the agriculture ecosystem and make them more open to alternative approaches.Extend short-term transition support to individuals liable to be adversely impacted by a large-scale transition to sustainable agriculture.
  • Make sustainable agriculture visible by integrating data and information collection on SAPSs in the prevailing national and state-level agriculture data systems.
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