Review Nepal News

Climate-Smart Agriculture for a Sustainable Futures
  Kathmandu      June 06 2024

By Wanglin Ma, Dil Rahut

As we celebrate and appreciate our natural resources and surroundings today on World Environment Day, we are also acutely aware of the rising temperatures, shifting precipitation patterns, and increasingly frequent extreme weather events like droughts and floods that devastate the planet.

These changes disrupt traditional farming practices and reduce crop yields while threatening food security, particularly in regions heavily dependent on agriculture. The impact of climate change on agriculture is even more severe in developing countries, where smallholder farmers rely on consistent weather patterns. Unpredictable weather conditions lead to crop failures, reduced livestock productivity, and increased pest and disease outbreaks, exacerbating food insecurity and poverty. In South Asia, for instance, climate change has adversely affected food production through water shortages, pest outbreaks, and soil degradation, leading to significant crop yield losses and challenges to food security (Naveen et al. 2024; Sandilya and Goswami 2024).

The United Nations reports that the human population will reach 9.7 billion by 2050, necessitating a 70% increase in food-calorie production to meet the growing demand. Therefore, robust climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies are imperative to counteract the negative impacts of climate change and enhance the flexibility and speed of response in smallholder farming systems.

What Is Climate-Smart Agriculture?

Climate-smart agriculture (CSA) has emerged as a crucial strategy for building farm resilience to climate change and promoting a sustainable future for agricultural sectors. CSA integrates agricultural practices and technologies that can enhance agricultural productivity and incomes, help farmers build resilience to adapt to climate change and reduce environmental disruption by reducing or avoiding greenhouse gas emissions.

Over time, CSA practices have been extensively developed and applied to address climate change and ensure global food security. These practices originate from and are directly implemented in agricultural production, making them easier to integrate into food production processes than other strategies. CSA practices have proven effective in mitigating climate shocks and meeting the rising food demand. Nevertheless, as highlighted and summarized by Zheng et al. (2024), no one-size-fits-all CSA practices exist. Farmers across different agriculture-climate zones and countries have adopted various CSA practices to enhance the sustainability of agricultural production and build the resilience of farming communities to climate shocks.

Benefits of CSA Adoption

By implementing CSA practices, farmers can achieve higher and more stable yields and improve their income status, contributing to food security and economic stability. For example, CSA practices adopted by Indian farmers, including crop rotation and integrated soil management, help farmers adapt to climate risk and contribute to a reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, increasing farm income and productivity (Tanti et al. 2024). Increased intensity of seven CSA practices, including the use of water-saving irrigation, organic fertilizer, farmyard manure, zero tillage, fallow cropping, crop rotation, and crop straw mulch among Chinese farmers, has been shown to increase household income, net farm income, and income diversity (Sang et al. 2024). Adopting efficient irrigation systems can also help farmers cope with water scarcity and erratic rainfall patterns (Davila et al., 2024), thus stabilizing food production and livelihoods.

Moreover, CSA practices reduce reliance on chemical inputs like pesticides and fertilizers, decreasing environmental pollution and improving ecosystem health (Tey et al. 2024). Promoting the adoption of CSA practices is crucial to improving smallholder farmers’ capacity to adapt to climate change, mitigate its impact, and help achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) (Ma and Rahut 2024).

Factors Determining CSA Adoption

Despite the significant benefits associated with CSA, adoption rates among farmers, particularly in developing countries, remain low due to various barriers. The factors influencing CSA adoption are contextual and vary across regions and crops. Li et al. (2024) summarized the literature and found that factors such as farmers’ age, gender, education, risk perception and preferences, access to credit, farm size, production conditions, off-farm income, and labor allocation can positively or negatively impact CSA practice adoption. Masud et al. (2017) found that ageing farmers in Malaysia have a higher likelihood of adopting climate change adaptation practices, while  Tran et al. (2020) reported a negative association between age and CSA practice adoption in Vietnam.

In contrast, variables such as labor endowment, land tenure security, access to extension services, agricultural training, membership in farmers’ organizations, household income and budgets, nongovernmental organization support, climate conditions, and access to information consistently and positively impact CSA practice adoption (Li et al. 2024). Studies have also explored single factors that drive farmers’ CSA adoption. For example, Zhou et al. (2023) reported that agricultural cooperatives in the People’s Republic of China can significantly promote farmers’ adoption of CSA. Agricultural cooperatives can gather small-scale and scattered rural farmers through collective actions. They can provide farmers with CAP adoption guidance that is more practical and region-specific by incorporating local information and adapting to local production conditions. Leveraging the growth of information and communication technologies, such as smartphones, digital advisory services help Ghanaian farmers adopt CSA technologies by reducing information asymmetry and providing climate-smart information to smallholder farmers (Asante et al., 2024). Improving Indian farmers’ access to credit has also been shown to promote CSA adoption (Villalba et al. 2024).

Strategies to Improve CSA Adoption

Several strategies can be implemented to improve farmers’ adoption of CSA.

First, enhancing access to credit and financial services can enable farmers to invest in CSA technologies and practices. Governments and development partners can provide subsidies or low-interest loans to reduce the financial burden of CSA adoption.

Second, strengthening agricultural extension services is critical for providing farmers with the necessary knowledge and skills to implement CSA practices effectively. Training programs and demonstration projects can help farmers understand the benefits of CSA and how to integrate these practices into their farming systems. Moreover, creating incentives for CSA adoption, such as higher prices for sustainably produced crops or payments for ecosystem services, can motivate farmers to adopt climate-smart practices. Policies supporting the development of farmer organizations (e.g., cooperatives, associations, self-help groups, women’s groups, and producer organizations) and strengthening rural social networks can also facilitate the sharing of resources and knowledge, making it easier for farmers to adopt new CSA practices.

Finally, addressing labor shortages through community-driven initiatives that provide labor-saving technologies and equipment can enhance the feasibility of labor-intensive CSA practices. For example, providing mechanized tools and machinery can reduce the labor burden and make CSA practices more attractive to farmers.