Climate Smart Agriculture: Enhancing Adaptive Capacity of the Rural Communities




Agriculture remains crucial for pro-poor economic growth in most developing countries. More than in any other sector, improvements in agricultural performance have the potential to increase rural incomes and purchasing power for large numbers of people to lift them out of poverty. It is the largest contributor to average global GDP; the biggest source of foreign exchange, and the main generator of savings and tax revenues. In addition, about two-thirds of manufacturing value-added is based on agricultural raw materials.

And, climate change, however, is causing the greatest threat to agriculture and food security in the 21st century, particularly in many of the poor, agriculture-based countries of sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), Asia with their low capacity to effectively cope.  The agriculture of these countries is already under stress as a result of population increase, industrialization and urbanization, competition over resource use, degradation of resources, and insufficient public spending for rural infrastructure and services. The impact of climate change is likely to exacerbate these stresses even further. The outlook for the coming decades is that agricul­tural productivity needs to continue to increase and will require more climate resilient technologies and methods to meet the demands of grow­ing populations and ensuring global food security.

Preserving and enhancing food security requires agriculture production systems to change in the direction of higher productivity and also, essentially, lower output variability in the face of climate risk and risks of an agro-ecological and socio-economic nature. In order to stabilize output and income, production systems must become more resilient i.e., more capable of performing well in the face of disruptive events. More productive and resilient agriculture requires transformations in the management of natural resources (land, water, soil nutrients and genetic resources) and higher efficiency in the use of these resources and inputs for production. Transitioning to such systems could also generate significant mitigation benefits by increasing carbon sinks, as well as reducing emissions per unit of agricultural product. These transformations are needed in both commercial and subsistence agriculture systems but with significant differences in priorities and capacity.

Until now, there are very few limited interventions of climate change adaptation/mitigation measures in the agriculture sector, which is particularly true for least developed countries like Nepal. Such interventions are mainly at micro level with respect to specific crops but there is no evidence of a macro and sectoral study in the field of climate smart agriculture which could result country specific strategies in the low emission agriculture development and/or climate smart agriculture. 

It is in this context that a comprehensive study is necessary to carry out which could identify approaches for climate change adaptation and mitigation in the agriculture sector and positioning the sector as a climate smart agriculture domain.  In a country like Nepal we shall aim to:

ü  identify effective climate-smart practices, which could be implemented in the agriculture system

ü  assess current capacity of value chain actors to adopt climate friendly practices in agriculture sector, and

ü  identify an ecosystem approach, which can be adopted for working at landscape scale and ensuring inter-sectoral coordination for effective climate change responses

However, we do not explicitly find any strategies on the climate change adaptation and agriculture in Nepal.  The basic guiding principles of UN on the climate change and agriculture, which includes adopting agriculture-led growth as the main strategy for achieving the first Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of halving the proportion of people living on less than a dollar a day and of hungry people by 2015, and accelerating agricultural productivity growth has not been addressed in the current programme and activities of Nepal. In addition, the four mutually reinforcing pillars, based on which other countries are developing climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies related to agriculture, viz.,- (1) extending the area under sustainable land management and reliable ecosystem development; (2) improving rural infrastructure and trade-related capacities for market access; (3) increasing food supply, reducing hunger, and improving responses to climate change and agriculture’s negative externalities; and (4) improving agriculture research, technology dissemination and adoption; are also missing from the policy documents of Nepal.

 It necessitates exploring potentiality of developing a climate smart agriculture sector in Nepal and SNV can play a key role in stirring the sector with its long term experiences in the agriculture domain in the LDCs and capacity development/advisory capabilities.

 Why Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA)?

Climate-smart agriculture (CSA) addresses the challenges of building synergies among climate change mitigation, adaptation and food security which are closely related within agriculture, and minimizing their potential negative trade-offs. Climate-smart agriculture (CSA) seeks to enhance the capacity of the agriculture sector to sustainably support food security, incorporating the need for adaptation and the potential for mitigation into development strategies[i].

CSA builds on existing efforts to achieve sustainable agriculture intensification such as Sustainable Crop Production Intensification (SCPI) and it will: (i) sustainably intensify production systems to achieve productivity increases thereby supporting the achievement of national food security and development goals; (ii) increase the resilience of production systems and rural livelihoods (adaptation); and (iii) reduce agriculture’s GHG emissions (including through increased production efficiency) and increase carbon sequestration (mitigation).

There is no blueprint for CSA and the specific contexts of countries and communities would need to shape how it is ultimately implemented. Climate-smart agricultural production technologies are therefore aimed at maximizing food security benefits and, at the same time, can deliver significant climate change mitigation and adaptation co-benefits[ii]. The main objective of CSA is to improve food security, incorporating adaptation as required to meet this objective. In this context, opportunities for mitigation shall be considered as additional co-benefits that could potentially be financed by external mitigation funding sources.

The best plausible options of CSA consist of adaptation and mitigations activities. Both these approaches (adaptation and mitigations) are inter-linked and can be practiced based on the emission trends and/or agriculture value chain. For instance, adaptation measures can be derived and formulated based on the crop production system, storage and conservation or livestock production system.

What next?

There are several available climate smart agriculture approaches. However, a careful selection of and adoption of appropriate methods and practices is necessary. There are numerous FAO, IFAD and other resources, guidelines, tools, technologies and other applications, which can be used to for selecting the most appropriate production systems, undertaking land use and resource assessments, evaluating vulnerability and undertaking impact assessments. This will help to identify the priority areas of CSA for Nepal. To introduce CSA in Nepal, an assessment of capacity of value chain actors will also be necessary.

There is an urgent need for climate smart agriculture adoption, but knowledge and methodological gaps exist in terms of practices, policy and finance in Nepal. These gaps hinder the ability of stakeholders (from smallholders to policy makers and development agencies) to be able to successfully implement climate smart actions. Therefore, Nepal’s government could carry out study to establish a baseline on CSA practices in Nepal; which could be eventually used for developing CSA implementation plan for specific geographical regions of Nepal.  

There is also need of good policy formulation at the national level, which could include the agriculture policies for rural and infrastructure development, foreign direct investment to promote private sector investment in the agriculture value chain, favourable policies and regulations for agriculture marketing and introducing conducive trade and commerce polices with appropriate tariffs.   

There is also a necessity to create an interface between CSA and other core sectors of Nepal, viz., renewable energy, tourism (mainly ecotourism), water security, forestry and plantation.  It is believed that such interfaces will not only be useful for long term sustainability of CSA activities but also it will enhance the efficacy of CSA programmes wither greater outcome and wider impacts at the community and macro level.  Indeed, to achieve this, involvement of community and local organization through localization strategies will be obligatory.

Keshav C Das

SNV Netherlands Development Organisation



[i] FAO (2010). “Climate-smart” Agriculture. Policies, Practices and Financing for Food Security, Adaptation

and Mitigation. Rome, FAO.

[ii] Branca, G., N. McCarthy, et al. (2011). Climate-smart Agriculture: A Synthesis of Empirical Evidence of Food

Security and Mitigation Benefits from Improved Cropland Management. Working paper. Rome, FAO.



2 thoughts on “Climate Smart Agriculture: Enhancing Adaptive Capacity of the Rural Communities

  1. Adapting agricultural systems to changed climatic conditions has been an evolutionary process for over 10,000 years.
    Adapting these to now rapidly changing conditions is only possible if the system has built in switches. These are not very likely conceivable.
    Genetic manipulation could give the rapid solutions wanted but than we are trapped between the devil and the deep blue sea.
    And ofcourse I hope I am wrong and that simple, sustainable solutions are at hand. I wish us luck.


  2. Whatever intervention is planned in Climate Smart Agriculture, it is very important to look at the ecosystem and stay within the possibilities this system allows us. Rehabilitation and sutainability of the ecosystem must be important aspects in any initiative


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