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.


Electrifying rural Nepal with Improved Water Mills: A DREAM to fulfill

 When we met the 35 water mill owners, who came to take part in the national workshop of improved watermills, jointly organized by the Alternative Energy Promotion Centre (AEPC) and Centre for Rural Technology (CRT), Nepal; the facilitator of the workshop, Uttam Jha asked mill owners a straight question:-what do you want to do with the electricity produced from improved water mills? Image

The list of expectations and desires to use electricity was not very short. Uttam took more than 2 hours to pin down the key expectations and a few of those aspirations are listed here. Majority of mill owners and villagers want electricity for lighting houses and want to establish small village enterprise to improve their income for a better live. A few wants electricity for agro-processing of cereals and pulses, another wants to use the electricity for powering computer centres and community radio which could act as an information unit for disseminating trade, economic, science and technology, weather related information. It was evident that the volume of expectations was huge whereas, we were not having convincing answers to meet all of their ‘dreams’.

This interaction with the community and mill owners was sufficient to understand the acuteness of the access to electricity issue in remotest hill areas of Nepal. Only 30% of total population in Nepal has access to electricity. The community residing in the hilly and mountainous areas of Nepal is most deprived from this basic facility.

In such regions, Improved Water Mill (IWM) is a potential technology, which is conventionally used for grinding and hulling of rice and other grains with the utilization of mechanical power of water mills. However, generating electricity from IWM is still a distant dream. This is particularly true because of non-availability of sizable finances and reliable technical modification, based on which sustainable electrification initiative can be taken up.

As of now, Pelton turbine is being used for piloting IWM electrification projects. Streams/rivers, having discharge more than 50 lps and powerhouse site having gross head more than 5 meter can operate the IWM plant efficiently. Induction motor is currently used as generator along with other control mechanism. However, there are still many scopes for ‘improvement’ of improved water mills for electricity generation.

What can we do?

Jagadish Khoju, the programme leader for IWM from AEPC and Anuj D Joshi, the renewable energy sector leader of SNV has clear plan to make the electricity generation happen in IWM sector. They believe that Nepal needs research and development as well as effective innovation facility to develop water mill electric power product. Anuj is more optimistic and advocates for developing a community village electrification project with IWM technology and where the produced electricity will be used for productive end-uses for domestic and income generating commercial activities.

In principle, this sounds just like a perfect idea to start a sizable pilot with 10 IWM units (with 3-5 Kw installed capacity) for community electrification in areas of Nepal, where ONLY water is the source of energy for electricity generation and there is no grid connection/extension or other reliable renewable energy sources. Based on the broad thumb rule, a pilot with 10 IWMs could provide access to electricity to 40 households of the remote Nepal. These families would be mostly from the socially excluded, women and dalits section (lower castes as per the Nepalese caste system) of the society.

In terms of employment generation opportunity, the project could bring income generating activities to the project areas mainly in the food processing village industries, commercial poultry farming due to lighting. The socio-economic co-benefits are also expected to be witnessed. With the implementation of the pilot, it is expected that up to 2400 family members (6 persons X 40 HHs/Electrification X 10 Projects)will benefit from electrical light at night and local employment up to 30 persons. The project would also replace diesel mill which are used commonly in rural areas for agro processing and thereby reduces the household use of fossil fuels and ultimately contributes to the reduction of green house gases ( 127.72 ton Co2e per year with 10 IWM units, generating around 30 Kw power). 

What do we need?

Financial investment for electrification project is significantly high. The project of this volume needs more than a million EUR investments. Community is not capable of making investment in it. Therefore, external funding would be required to start the project. However, to promote community ownership, community should make a small investment, amounting 10% of the total technology cost. Perhaps, this could also initially be ‘sweat equity’ and once the project will provide employment generation opportunities, eventually it will enable the community to increase their own contribution in the project from 10%. This provision will ensure the long sustainability of the project. Besides, climate finance and local financing like micro-credits could also be available stream of financing.

In addition, one important area, which needs immediate support, is capacity development of local partner organizations, who have limited expertise in the IWM technology. It is particularly necessary as IWMs will be operated and maintained by local operators and local implementing agencies. Hence, these partners should receive timely and quality technical assistances.  

Can SNV do it? The Answer is certainly YES, because SNV has a long prospering history of providing capacity development services as well as conceptualizing, proto-type development and implementation experiences of biogas and IWM!

There is no doubt that based on the successful development of the pilot, sufficient data and information will be available to provide vital inputs into the design of the national replication strategy of IWM electrification programme. Such a strategy will integrate specific off-grid electrification policies and programs within an overall plan that would cover line extensions, independent mini-grids and individual systems, as solutions to providing access to remaining un-served populations of Nepal. And that will be the real tributes to the 35 water mill owners who dared to dream BIG dreams and elucidated their expectations in the national stakeholder meeting in Kathmandu on September 25!

Money for methane: Success Stories of Carbon finance

The 2010 and 2011 are two remarkable years for the SNV Netherlands Development Organisation as well as its national partners in Nepal and Cambodia, as because, the countries receive long pending carbon credits issuance and successfully registered its pro-poor domestic biogas based emission reduction projects. These successes have ensured a steady flow of carbon revenue to the biogas projects, which is crucial for financial sustainability of these programmes. The official communiqués on this success is depicted below.


The National Biodigester Programme (NBP) from Cambodia received a certificate representing its first issue of 34,112 Gold Standard VERs at the international workshop held in November 2011 in Indonesia. This was the result of the first NBP monitoring report covering the period of May 2009 till August 2010. The average annual emission reduction per biodigester was determined at 4.2 ton CO2 equivalent.

The NBP, which is a joint venture between the Cambodian Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) and SNV, initiated carbon finance activities in 2005. At that time, obtaining CERs was unattractive, as only VERs allowed a combination of fuel switch and methane capture in the emission reduction calculation, as well as no thermal ceiling on the power output of the bundled biodigesters. Since 2007, NBP has an important agreement with the Hivos Climate Fund on the sale of VERs generated by the programme.

The process of acquiring the first carbon credits was time-consuming, however the 2nd monitoring report, planned for March 2012, with a total of about 60,000 VERs, is expected to go smoother and faster. It is very important for NBP to continue carbon finance activities to cover long-term financing of the programme costs. With the present VER market condition, NBP expects to have all programme costs, including subsidy, covered out of carbon revenues when 45,000 biodigesters are in operation. This can be achieved by 2018 if the present plant construction figures are maintained. The 15,000th installed plant mark was achieved on 20th of February this year.

The success story of Nepal:

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has issued a total of 92,278 carbon credits for the Nepalese Biogas Support Programme (BSP) in the 2nd half of 2011. The credits (Certified Emission Reductions; CERs) cover 19,396 biogas plants installed between November 2003 and April 2005 and for emission reduction period of August 2004 to July 2006.

BSP-Nepal, the programme implementing agency and other partners faced several hurdles in the process of obtaining the UNFCCC certified carbon credits. With the assistance of SNV and others (e.g. KfW and World Bank), for example in developing new CDM methodologies, they overcame these obstacles and can now reap the benefits by mainstreaming carbon projects into their biogas programme.

Two more bundled biogas projects were registered in December 2011, covering 40,602 biogas plants, as CDM projects. The CER issuance of these projects is expected for 2013. The carbon credits certified by UNFCCC could provide annual carbon revenue of up to US$ 5 million by the year 2014/15. This amount meets the current level annual expenditure of the programme, including the subsidy component. The financial gap in programme implementation would therefore be bridged and make the programme financially self-reliant, ensuring a successful continuation even without donor and government funding.

The Alternative Energy Promotion Centre (AEPC) run Nepal’s bio-gas programme has enabled the Nepali rural households to use clean cooking fuel, and eventually reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by displacing the conventional use of fuel wood for cooking. Over 230,000 bio-gas plants installed through the BSP-N programme across the country have replaced firewood, providing cleaner energy, improved health among women, reduced deforestation and contributed to job creation. An Emission Reduction Purchase Agreement (ERPA) was signed by AEPC and the World Bank for trading of the Emission Reductions (ERs) from the two CDM Projects for 7 years. An amount of around USD 1.98 million, generated from the carbon credit for up to July 2009, has already been paid by the World Bank. Currently, a Programme of Activities – PoA for registration of biogas plants to be constructed with BSP support in the next 28 years.

Keshav C Das
Advisor, Climate Finance, SNV Netherlands Development Organisation