Stories tagged: sustainable agriculture

Investing in Climate-Smart Agriculture for Africa

Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA) is a term that has been coined to position agriculture as vital in mitigating and adapting to climate change. Our previous blog post on the subject reported that agriculture is currently responsible for 70 percent of water use globally, as well as up to 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. As demand for food and thus farming is rapidly increasing due to growing populations, it is essential to not only increase agricultural productivity, but to ensure that the environmental impact of agriculture is minimal. It is equally important to adapt existing agricultural practices so they are able to withstand the extreme weather conditions climate change will bring.

A report from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) published last month, entitled “Identifying opportunities for climate-smart agriculture investments in Africa” looks at how CSA is being applied to Africa. Africa’s population has just passed 1 billion and is due to double by 2050. As a consequence, the FAO has estimated that Africa will need to provide adequate food supplies for over 20 million additional people each year and improve the nutritional status of  more than 239 million people. Increasing food production in Africa is essential, but are current farming processes in Africa climate smart?

The governments of 14 African countries (Benin, Ethopia, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo and Uganda) have put into place “National Agriculture and Food Security Investment Plans” (NAFSIPs) in order to adapt to slow-onset climatic change and extreme events, and mitigate climate change. The report has assessed these plans to identify investment needs and options for climate-smart agriculture financing in Africa.

Key findings of the report:

Of the National Agriculture and Food Security Investment Plans in African countries examined…

  • 60 percent are expected to generate climate benefits in terms of slow-onset climate change
  • 18 percent are expected to generate climate benefits in terms of adaptation to extreme events
  • 19 percent are expected to generate climate benefits in terms of climate change mitigation

Gambia and Malawi lead the African countries in terms of number of projects that address slow onset climate change as well as climate change mitigation, whereas Liberia and Niger ranked higher in terms of number of projects that address adaptation to extreme events.

In an assessment of the potential for quick deployment of climate-smart agricultural practices, Ghana and Kenya were both ranked as having a high potential, whereas Senegal, and Benin were ranked as low.

The results of the analysis highlight that NAFSIPs already include many climate-smart activities, however there is the need to consolidate and integrate these findings by providing country-specific inputs such as:

  • analyzing the most promising CSA agricultural investment options and estimating their cost-effectiveness also considering the expected climate benefits
  • outlining investments needed to transform ongoing and planned programmes, activities and  projects into proper climate-smart interventions, also identifying the corresponding (public and private) financing sources
  • analyzing the profitability of the investments in order to determine the type of finance required
  • leveraging existing financing instruments in agriculture with innovative climate financing mechanisms
  • designing result-based monitoring and accounting procedures and national registries related to identified financing option

To read the full report click here

Find out more about Farming First’s principles on climate change

The Water, Energy and Food Security Nexus: Solutions for the Green Economy

A paper titled “Understanding the Nexus” has been published ahead of the Bonn2011 Conference ‘The Water, Energy and Food Security Nexus: Solutions for the Green Economy’ which will be taking place later next week.

As we have previously written, the Water, Energy and Food nexus refers to the interlinked risks of water security, food security and energy security. With the current combined challenges of degraded ecosystems, a rapidly increasing demand for resources, climate change, growing urbanization and globalization, there is a threat that social-ecological systems at all levels will be driven across critical thresholds.

This new paper presents initial evidence for how a nexus approach can enhance water, energy and food security by increasing efficiency, reducing trade-offs, building synergies and improving governance across sectors.

The paper claims that:

“A nexus approach can support a transition to sustainability, by reducing trade-offs and generating additional benefits that outweigh the transaction costs associated with stronger integration across sectors.”

The authors argue that a nexus approach can create a number of opportunities, including:

–       Increased productivity of resources. The nexus focus is on system efficiency rather than on the productivity of isolated sectors.

–       Waste as a resource in muti-use systems. Cross-sectoral management can boost overall resource use efficiency. Waste can be turned into a resource for other products.

–       Stimulating development through economic incentives. A nexus approach can help to avoid investments that lock development into non-sustainable pathways.

–       Governance, institutions and policy coherence. Enabling conditions for horizontal and vertical policy coherence include institutional capacity building, political will, change agents and capacity building.

–       Benefiting from productive ecosystems. Green agriculture can provide benefits such as carbon sequestration and resilience to climate risks while improving food security.

–       Integrated poverty alleviation and green growth. Green agriculture can generate more rural jobs and increase diversity and resilience of production systems.

–       Capacity building and awareness raising. This can help to deal with the complexity of cross-sectoral approaches, and to promote sustainable lifestyles and consumption patterns.

–       Moving towards a green economy. As the green economy approach seeks “to unite under a single banner the entire suite of economic policies of relevance to sustainable development”, it is the nexus approach par excellence.

You can read the paper in full here:


To read more about Farming First’s position on the green economy, watch our animated video or view our infographic please see the page on our website on agriculture and the green economy.

New Farming First Video – The Story of Agriculture and the Green Economy

We have created a new animated video called “The Story of Agriculture and the Green Economy”. The video aims to share knowledge on the green economy and the role Agriculture has to play in ensuring its success. The informative video highlights the importance of sustainable agricultural infrastructure as a core aspect of agriculture’s role within the green economy.

The video communicates a key message – that the future of our world depends on addressing global challenges now.

A transition to a green economy is already underway but the challenge is to build on this momentum. Currently, there is no international consensus on the problem of global food security or on possible solutions for how to nourish a population of nine billion people by 2050.

We need to create sustainable livelihoods, feed a growing population and safeguard the environment, and agriculture has a large role to play in making this happen. Agriculture currently accounts for 37% of employment globally, 34% of land use, 70% of water use and up to 30% of greenhouse gases.

Growth from agriculture is at least twice as effective in reducing poverty than any other sectors, and it has one of the highest potentials for mitigating carbon emissions.

Thus, we are calling for:

  • a reversal of the decline in government spending and foreign aid to agriculture that has been happening since the 1980’s
  • investment in agricultural research and science-based policies that give farmers a variety of innovative solutions
  • acknowledgement of agriculture’s ability to stimulate employment and the economy

If you liked our video, then please share it on social networks such as Twitter and Facebook or email it to friends and family, and engage in conversation around the green economy. We want as many people as possible to “agvocate” with us, sharing the message that agriculture is vital for a green economy, and that there is an urgent need to put farming first.

You can watch more Farming First videos here on Farming First TV.

The creation of this video builds on previous work we have done on the green economy, including our award-winning infographic. Click here for our page on Agriculture and the Green Economy where you can watch the video, view the infographic, or download our policy paper or our guide to Green Economy Initiatives on Agriculture.

You can follow Farming First on Twitter here.

The political role of water: Water Management and Food Production

The Challenge Program on Water and Food (CPWF) of the CGIAR has released a new report on water resources, drawing on five years of research in 30 countries around the world.

The report, titled Major River Basins Have Enough Water to Sustainably Double Food Production in the Coming Decades, says that whilst water-related conflicts and shortages abound around the globe, there is sufficient water to sustain food, energy, industrial and environmental needs during the 21st century.

The reports author’s claim that the biggest challenge facing water is not scarcity, but the inefficient use and inequitable distribution of the water flowing through key river basins such as the Nile, Ganges, Andes, Yellow, Niger and Volta.

Alain Vidal, the director of the CPWF, said:

“…the problem overall is a failure to make efficient and fair use of the water available in these river basins. This is ultimately a political challenge, not a resource concern.”

Researchers identified large areas of arable land in Asia and Latin America where production could potentially rise by at least 10 per cent.

Dr. Simon Cook, the leader of the CPWF’s Basin Focal Research Project, said:

“…there are relatively straightforward opportunities to satisfy our development needs and alleviate poverty for millions of people without exhausting our most precious natural resource… With a major push to intensify rainfed agriculture, we could feed the world without increasing the strain on river basins systems.”

The report states that if donors and government ministries put more emphasis on supporting rain-fed agriculture, food production could increase rapidly and sustainably.

The authors of the report also note that policies often ignore the role of livestock and fisheries in local livelihoods and diets, which play a vital role in certain communities, such as the 40 million in the Mekong who depend on fisheries for at least half the year.

Making a Difference with Farmer Training in Vietnam

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In Vietnam, where some 55 percent of the labor force is involved in agriculture, traditional farming methods dominate the way small growers in the country work. Lacking access to technology and knowledge on how to protect their harvests, millions of farmers in Vietnam struggle with low yields.

To transfer skills and technology to Vietnam’s farmers, CropLife Vietnam is working closely with the Plant Protection Department of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) on farmer training programs. In 2008, 1,505 growers of vegetables, fruit and tea in nine provinces benefited from training provided by the private-public partnership.

In the same period, 44 farmer field schools were established nationwide. Another 40,000 have learnt Good Agricultural Practices, including crop selection, fertilizer usage as well as the responsible use of pesticides, through mass media campaigns and TV contests for farmers.

These campaigns are highly effective in reaching farmers in remote areas, while being entertaining and educational.

CropLife Vietnam is concerned about the problems faced by rice farmers, many of whom are struggling to combat infestation of their crops by brown plant hoppers. This year, training has been expanded to include rice farmers in key growing areas. Vietnam is the world’s second-largest exporter of rice after Thailand.

Ngo Thi Nhieu, a 35-year-old farmer from Vietnam’s Dong Mai village in Bac Ninh province, used to struggle to produce enough from her 1-acre land to feed her family. Today, her family has enough to eat because she produces enough to sell what she grows and makes a comfortable living.

For the first time in 2005, Ngo learnt how to combat pest infestations on her rice and vegetable fields in a session conducted by the CropLife-MARD partnership. In the past, she used traditional farming methods her parents taught her.

Today, we are very much aware of food safety standards at home and around the world. We take great care in everything we do – from choosing the seed, to using fertilizer, water and pesticides properly. We are fully aware of the importance of food safety.

Training has made a big difference in Ngo’s life. She added, “Not only my family – but also my neighbors – we all have a better life.”

Visit to learn more about work towards sustainable agriculture across the Asia Pacific region.

Transferring knowledge to farmers in Taiwan

In line with the Taiwanese government’s aim to turn the country’s agriculture industry into a competitive and green sector, the plant science industry is actively involved in helping growers harness technology to increase yields while adopting environmentally friendly farming practices.

Recognizing that farmers may not have expertise in protecting their crops, CropLife Taiwan has been reaching out to farmers nationwide on responsible pesticide use. Through farmers’ meetings, booklets and the dissemination of personal protection equipment, the Association aims to step up its efforts to educate farmers on product stewardship, including enhancing food safety.

CropLife Taiwan has partnered with the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) and crop protection associations to strengthen its farmer outreach initiatives. In Taoyuan county, the EPA and CropLife Taiwan have been training farmers on proper treatment of used pesticide containers, including triple rinsing and recycling. The objective is for farmers to be responsible stewards of the land and add value to the agricultural food chain.

Lin Ah Qin, a vegetable farmer from Taiwan’s Changhua county, struggled to support her family of three children after her husband passed away four years ago. With little knowledge about farming, yields were low.

Lin’s life turned around after she attended a farmers’ meeting in 2007. At the event, she learnt about protecting her harvests, including selecting crop protection products, frequency of use and dosage. In addition, Lin picked up tips on enhancing food safety by following product label instructions.

After using pesticides on her garlic crops to combat pests and disease, Lin saw a dramatic improvement. When the harvest came three months later, yields had jumped 14 percent. Encouraged, Lin followed the same guidelines with her winter crops. Again yields increased, this time by 15 percent.

Training on the responsible use of pesticides has resulted in greater efficiency and lower input costs for Lin. In addition, she learnt environmentally friendly ways of disposing of empty pesticide containers. Lin looks forward to the future with confidence, knowing her yields and income will continue to improve, sufficiently providing for her and her three children.

Visit to learn more about work towards sustainable agriculture across the Asia Pacific region.