The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nation defines climate smart agriculture as an approach that helps to guide actions needed to transform and reorient agricultural systems to effectively support development and ensure food security in a changing climate. Weather patterns are changing due to climate change. The global population is growing and is projected to hit 9.7 billion by 2050. The middle class is growing and so are disposable incomes thus increasing the demand for food. Food production will have to increase by 70% by 2050 to feed the burgeoning population.
New ways of food production need to be adopted to wade off a food insecurity crisis. Climate smart agriculture incorporates climate change into the planning and development of sustainable food production systems. Not only does climate smart agriculture seek to sustainably increase food production, it also seeks to reduce greenhouse gases emissions which contribute significantly to climate change.
Climate smart agriculture promotes sustainability through its three pillars;
Sustainably increasing agricultural productivity and incomes (food security):
With the global population projected to exceed 9 billion by 2050, food production needs to increase to ensure availability of sufficient nutritious food. To meet food demand, production needs to increase by 70 percent. Sustainability also entails managing food waste. Currently, over a third of all food produced goes to waste. Alleviating food waste along value chains through adopting more efficient ways of production will be key in ensuring sustainability.
Adapting and building resilience to climate change (adaptation):
Climate change has altered weather patterns. Extreme weather in the form of rising temperatures, frequent droughts and flooding has affected food production in several parts of the globe. Building resilience and adaptation will entail the utilization of an integrated approach that will incorporate a mix of measures that include the use of technology, planting more resilient crops and using collected weather data to inform the decisions for future food production.
Reducing and/or removing greenhouse gas emissions where possible (mitigation):
Greenhouse gases (GHGs) trap heat and make the planet warmer, therefore, exacerbating climate change. Almost 25 percent of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture. Agriculture is the world’s second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases after the energy sector. Reducing agriculture’s contribution to GHGs emissions will slow down the detrimental effects they have on the environment bolstering sustainability. Increasing agricultural efficiency through the adoption of technology will mitigate inputs required such as fertilizer consequently reducing greenhouse gases emissions. Avoiding deforestation from agriculture and maximizing the potential of soils and trees to act as carbon sinks and absorb CO2 from the atmosphere will also go a long way in mitigating the effects of GHGs on the environment.
Feeding future generations will require a concerted effort by all stakeholders to ensure new ways of food production are adopted that will effectively integrate climate change into the equation. Smallholder farmers are the most vulnerable to the stresses and shocks associated with climate change due to their limited resources. Climate smart agriculture not only seeks to increase agricultural productivity but also to increase smallholder incomes. More than 2/3 of the population in poor countries works in the agricultural sector and 60 percent of them are smallholders. New ways of food production are paramount since smallholders are the most susceptible to the effects of extreme weather conditions. Their incomes get affected which in turn makes it difficult for them to untangle themselves from the vicious cycle of poverty.