Agricultural production is still the main source of livelihood for rural communities in sub-Saharan Africa, providing employment to more than 60 percent of the population and contributing about 30 percent of gross domestic product in this region. The need to increase productivity and ensure food security for the growing population has been challenged by degradation of natural resources and recently hit by climate change impact.
Climate Smart Agricultural (CSA) practices increase agricultural productivity, improve resilience to climate change, and contribute to long-term reductions in dangerous carbon emissions.
The World Bank recently launched one of its largest climate-smart agriculture initiatives in India. Through this $420 million initiative, the bank expects to reach over 25 million smallholder farmers working on 3.5 million hectares of land. The project will support climate-smart agricultural practices including crop diversification and planting of drought-tolerant varieties. Ultimately, this will lead to the sustainable improvement of agricultural productivity, water security, soil health and improve farmer resilience in the face of a changing climate.
As defined by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, CSA practices are approaches that help to transform and reorient agricultural and food systems to effectively support the development and ensure food security in a changing climate. These approaches aim to tackle three objectives: sustainably increase agricultural productivity, adapt and build resilience to climate change and reduce or remove greenhouse gas emissions. CSA initiatives employ and encourage several strategies including the planting of improved and drought tolerant crop varieties, delivering timely seasonal and current weather information to farmers and sharing agricultural innovations.
The vulnerability to weather-sensitive agricultural production systems as practised in Nigeria is seen and demonstrated by the devastating effects of flooding and drought which occur in most parts of the country. The country loses between 10 to 20 percent of its agricultural production to climate change because of change in rainfall and dry periods. Agricultural productivity is projected to decline between 10 – 25 percent by 2080, while yields of rain-fed agriculture in some northern parts of Nigeria to decrease up to 50 percent.
This is likely to result in 4.5 percent reduction in GDP by 2050. The side effects are the poor standard of living and increased poverty for over 90 million households that engage in subsistence farming and the high price of agricultural produce. These households account for over 80 percent of farm holdings in Nigeria. The significant impacts of climate change on agriculture constitute a major hurdle for Nigerian Government.
Even as Nigeria approaches the rainy season, the adaptation of Climate Smart Agricultural practices can reduce farmers’ risks due to climate change, while at the same time enhancing food security and livelihood. It is therefore, necessary that Government begins to adopt climate-smart agriculture practices that will allow smallholders, and big producers, to adapt to climate change, whilst reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
CSA embodies the ambition to improve integration of climate change responsiveness into agricultural development planning. These include the traditional methods or techniques of agricultural practices such as mulching, intercropping, conservation of agriculture, pasture and manure management, innovative practices (application of green energy in agriculture), programmes, policies such as improved crop varieties, better weather forecasting, and risk management.
And there are many success stories emerging from CSA initiatives that have been in operation for the last several years across Africa. From Kenya’s climate smart villages that have helped farmers to transform their previously unproductive land into productive high-yielding farms to Tanzania, where improved irrigation systems have resulted in increased rice productivity for more than 228,000 farmers have increased farm productivity and Ethiopia, where farm productivity has increased, soil health improved and average annual farm household incomes increased by over 260 percent because farmers were provided with accurate analysis of their soil health, allowing them to apply the needed fertilizers.
These success stories clearly show that climate smart agricultural practices are a viable option that can sustainably transform the agriculture sector under a changing climate.