Climate-Smart Agriculture

Noragric Report No 64. Department of International Environment and Development Studies. Norwegian University of Life Sciences.

Gry Synnevåg and Jayne Lambrou | March 2012


The recent rise in the number of food insecure people in the world, coupled with incidences of crop failure due to adverse weather, have made world leaders increasingly aware that future climate change may severely limit our ability to feed the growing population towards 2050. So far, in addition to industrial emission control, Norwegian efforts to restrict climate change have focused on mitigation through forest protection (REDD+) and clean energy (Energy+). A third area of attention is climate-smart agriculture. Producing food in a more ‘climate smart’ way is seen as having three advantages: 1) Providing food for an increasing population, 2) maintaining food production under a changing climate, and 3) reducing greenhouse gas emission from agriculture while absorbing carbon in vegetation and soil. This report explores how Norway can support Africa’s efforts to make agriculture more climate-smart through support to African universities.

Among the three benefits of climate-smart agriculture, African farmers will be most inclined to focus on the two first, the production increase and the adaptation. Mitigation may require external support. African leaders are in the forefront of developing policies and institutional arrangements for climate-smart agriculture. Among other initiatives, the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme under the African Union is in the process of preparing member states for substantial investments in agriculture. Capacity building and the generation of new knowledge are essential for the achievement of climate-smart agriculture. Given the long history of Norwegian support to agricultural research and higher agricultural education in several African countries, Norway can, without doubt, make significant contributions to African food security – now and in the future.

Norwegian support to climate-smart agriculture can be based on its experience with REDD+ and Energy+ initiatives. The possible roles include: 1) Human and institutional capacity building; 2) monitoring and evaluation; and 3) establishing and maintaining partnerships between public, private and civil society actors. Drawing on studies from e.g., conservation agriculture, biofuel production and integrated land management in the Sahel, Norwegian support can contribute to the implementation of a productive and climate robust agriculture while also obtaining the goals of REDD+ and Energy+.

Interventions for climate change mitigation and adaptation, including REDD+ and Energy+ initiatives for commercial forestry plantations and renewable biomass fuels (biofuels), may restrict both men and women’s access to land, forest and other productive resources. Studies so far have indicated that climate efforts may exacerbate an already precarious situation for women in many African countries due to their insecure access to land and their voiceless situation. In light of the different roles men and women play in food production and energy generation, their different needs should be attended to in the climate change agenda.

Considering the important role of the private sector in securing long-term sustainability of donor and government funded programmes in climate-smart agriculture, REDD+ and Energy+, and for the purposes of scaling up any pilot projects with limited donor or government funding, one case from Mozambique (the Beira Agricultural Growth Corridor - BAGC) and one from Tanzania (the Southern Growth Corridor of Tanzania - SAGCOT) are presented in the report. The cases may illustrate potential institutional arrangements for collaboration with private sector and farming communities in developing commercial agriculture. However, due to low returns and high risk, most African countries may not attract sufficient private investments required for the transition to mechanized food and energy production. Thus, government and donor funding may still be required to provide incentives for the private sector engagement in climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts. 

Norway, together with FAO and the World Bank (WB) has, for some time, been in dialogue with the African Union/NEPAD regarding cooperation on the strengthening of the climate dimension in the Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Program, CAADP. Support to climate-related research and education can be arranged through the Climate Programme of CGIAR, the Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).

UMB/Campus Ås has a wide network of partner universities in Africa, upon which further collaboration can be built. This report finds future arrangements under the new NORHED programme to be particularly promising for combining research and education towards climate-smart agriculture in Africa. Past and ongoing support programmes have already strengthened some of our partners to a level where they can serve as Centres of Excellence and function as hubs for regional research and education programmes. Weak universities in collaborating countries in the region may benefit through staff development and student funding mechanisms. UMB will seek to promote the experiences from the seminar series Sustainability, Education and the Management of Change in the Tropics, aimed at spreading the pedagogic approach of EARTH University in Africa and Asia.

Food security in Africa needs international attention, particularly with the current prospects of climate change. Fortunately, there are promising opportunities.

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