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Climate Action 2010-2011

Ecosystem based

Ecosystem based adaptation Figure 1: An IFAD-supported project has restored vegetation in about one third of the vast Badia rangelands in Syria. Adapting agriculture to climate change: a ‘no-regrets’ option for development and environment Kanayo Nwanze, President of International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) Elwyn Grainger-Jones, Director of Environment and Climate at IFAD Feeding a global population of just over 9 billion by 2050 will put huge pressure on our planet’s scarce natural resources, even without climate change. The world’s 500 million smallholder farms already provide the bulk of the food eaten in developing countries but will need to play an even greater role. Appropriate and innovative finance is needed for the poorest communities to build their resilience to climate change. Climate change follows no monthly calendar. But with its hard-hitting storms, increasing droughts and severe floods damaging farmlands in developing countries, it is demonstrating its inexorable progression, and putting 500 million smallholder farms at increasing risk. The international community, governments and private sector share an important responsibility to finance and support climate resilient agriculture. We have many proven measures to support them but success will depend on how effectively we empower smallholders to manage their assets, of which the natural resource base is perhaps the most important, and diversify their farm and off-farm businesses. Public sector investment in sustainable agricultural practices and technologies must be coupled with improved access to markets, microfinance and a range of other services for rural communities. This will make it possible for smallholders to invest in their assets and knowledge, unleashing their potential to be agents of adaptation. Smallholders bear the brunt of climate impacts Rural communities are particularly vulnerable to climate change given their direct reliance on weather-dependant natural resources, their often limited access to institutions and markets, and their resulting reduced capacity to cope with a range of shocks such as food price spikes or extreme weather events. By damaging the asset base of smallholder and subsistence farmers, degrading their | 146 | soils, water sources, forest, sea and river products, climate change reduces their incomes and their chance to thrive. Adaptation for them is not optional but an increasing, daily challenge. Today, smallholder farmer households represent half of the world’s undernourished people, three-quarters of Africa’s malnourished children, and the majority of people living in absolute poverty and in marginal ecosystems. Globally, smallholder families constitute the vast majority of the poor, living on less than US$2 a day. Climate change has reduced the likelihood of achieving the first of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to halve the prevalence of hunger by 2015, with Sub- Saharan Africa likely to be the most food insecure region. In ten years’ time, between 75 and 250 million more people in Africa alone are expected to be exposed to water and food security stress – the majority of them rural and smallholder farmers. Growth in agricultural productivity will need to almost double every year to avoid encroaching into already stressed ecosystems and make up for the impacts of climate change (World Development Report 2010). Smallholder farmers are too big a group covering too large a land area to be ignored, under the assumption that increasingly industrial agricultural production will render them non-players. Rather, we should recognise them as a cost-effective investment for increasing yields and intensifying agriculture in ways that reduce poverty, maintain and build on the natural resource base and enhance climate resilience. Do more, better: an ecosystems approach If the agricultural systems that smallholders manage are to be productive and sustainable, they need clean water and healthy soil, and a variety of genetic resources and ecological processes. A healthy ecosystem can foster productivity and diversify income-generating activities, for instance through apiculture, the harvesting of indigenous medicinal plants or ecotourism. The international www.climateactionprogramme.org

Ecosystem based adaptation In the arid Syrian steppe zone or Badia, IFAD is working with local communities to reduce herders’ vulnerability to climate change and restore the longterm productivity of rangelands after years of severe drought and intensive grazing. By reintroducing native plants that help meet fodder requirements, fixing the soil and stopping sand encroachment, ecosystems have been restored and the local population’s vulnerability to the effects of climatic instability reduced. After two years of resting, reseeding and planting, birds, insects and animals returned to the area contributing to ecosystem restoration, see Figure 1. community has come to clarity on the point that healthy ecosystems underpin sustainable development. However, the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2007 warned us that the resilience of many ecosystems to changes in climate could be surpassed within our lifetimes. This represents a huge threat for agriculture. For temperature increases exceeding 1.5 – 2.5°C, about 20-30 per cent of plant and animal species will be at increased risk of extinction and major changes in the ecosystem are predicted in the medium and long term. Even in the near future, agriculture will take place under significantly changed environmental conditions. For developing countries, particularly Africa, it will require producing more under less favourable conditions. In all cases, it will require dealing with more uncertainties. In a few decades, the world could see more food insecurity and hunger crises, more conflicts over scarce natural resources, and more displacement and migration. If we don’t adopt climate-resilient agriculture now, any gains we make will be compromised. As the custodians of natural resources, smallholders’ engagement in ecosystem-based adaptation is key in promoting sustainable agriculture programmes. The involvement of grassroots organisations, community groups, women and young people in planning and managing the natural resources that sustain agriculture is essential for an ecosystems approach. Leaving the ‘trade-off ’ mentality behind Once we understand that making agriculture climate resilient is also about protecting and enhancing ecosystem services, we come to an important conclusion: the choice between reducing poverty, adapting to climate change, feeding the world or protecting the environment is a false one. What we need, in the words of Professor Swaminathan, is an ‘evergreen’ revolution powered by sustainable agriculture that balances inputs with crop needs so that surplus inputs are avoided and soil fertility and the ecosystem are not compromised, and 21st century technology that will simultaneously achieve all of these objectives and include smallholder farmers. The challenge that we now face is to scale up the right sustainable practices in the right places, and to ensure that smallholder farmers can adopt them and benefit from them. Start by scaling up the ‘no-regrets’ actions There is a range of proven agricultural practices and technologies ready to be deployed at scale to limit the negative effects of climate change and provide substantive development gains. Balanced-input agriculture, for example, makes the most efficient use of seeds and fertiliser, land and water, energy and labour. Great strides are being made to bring cropland, rangeland and woodland under sustainable land management (SLM) approaches that are grounded in community empowerment, including land tenure rights, and efficient use of natural resources. Conservation agriculture techniques are also showing real promise for scalable methods of production and ‘green’ approaches in land use and preservation. Agro-forestry and other integrated agricultural approaches provide improved vehicles for dealing with complexity and change. Technologies ready for scale up include tolerant/ resistant crop varieties based on drought or heat, salt, insects or pests, and improved seeds, all of which provide potential for increasing yields and improving the resilience of livelihoods across regions. Agro-forestry and other integrated agricultural approaches provide improved vehicles for dealing with complexity and change – and we have seen them make a difference on the ground through better irrigation, fisheries management and infrastructure that achieve development and poverty reduction objectives and build climate resilience. We are ready to do more of all of this, at scale. Support new technologies for longterm challenges In the face of long-term climate challenges, we know that today’s knowledge and technologies won’t be enough. IFAD therefore supports promising technologies that are new to the market but still require promotion and piloting. In development jargon, they are more ‘knowledgeintensive’ – which means that farmers need training in how and why to use them and incentives to adopt them, while governments need support in formulating policies that provide those incentives either directly or through markets. Value traditional knowledge to strengthen resilience New technology is important, but one weakness of the first Green Revolution was that it overlooked the value of traditional knowledge and the seed varieties held by farmers. Promoting, revitalising and scaling up existing local and traditional knowledge on crop management www.climateactionprogramme.org | 147 |