A framework to identify suitable on-farm approaches to combat climate change
Comparing ‘climate smart’ agricultural strategies just became easier. A framework that can lead to right farm interventions in these times of changing climate has been designed by a multi-institutional team of researchers.
A recently published study titled ‘A framework for priority-setting in climate smart agriculture research’, in the journal Agricultural Systems, describes a six-element framework to inform where research investments should be made. This is done by determining the effect of multiple research options on the Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) pillar triad and estimating research impact. The framework resulted from a writing workshop held last year in Galway, Ireland.
According to the authors, agriculture can be termed ‘climate smart’ if it is in sync with realities of climate change. The goal of CSA is to achieve food security by sustainably increasing productivity, adaptation to climate change and mitigating greenhouse emissions – collectively called ‘CSA Pillars’.
“Often, implementing CSA will involve addressing tradeoffs between the three pillars and weighing the costs and benefits of different options based on stakeholders’ objectives,” according to authors of the study led by Dr Phillip K Thornton of the International Livestock Research Institute, Kenya. Dr Thornton leads the flagship program – Priorities and Policies for CSA, which is part of the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) considers that sub-Saharan Africa, South and South-East Asia are most vulnerable to climate change as it threatens production of crops, livestock, forestry and can affect millions of smallholder producers. An increase of up to 75 % in agricultural output may be required to feed the world’s population in 2050, the study’s authors warn.
“Climate-smart initiatives in agriculture are the need of the hour but finding context-specific solutions is critical for successful adoption. This framework can help narrow down choices for optimal resource allocation, playing a key role in efforts to tackle climate change,” says Dr Anthony Whitbread, one of the authors of the study and Research Program Director – Innovation Systems for the Drylands (ISD) at ICRISAT.
“Appropriate solutions can be elusive without a systematic guide for priority setting. The framework helps weigh multiple possible solutions irrespective of research methods used,” says co-author of the study Dr Shalander Kumar, Principal Scientist, ICRISAT.
The CSA framework can be used by responding to six questions (the framework’s elements). These questions seek to determine how the pillar triad is likely to be affected by CSA activity, whether the activity can have other social and environmental impacts beyond the farm, and what needs to be done to facilitate research impact.
The authors add that outlining impact early in a research project’s lifecycle can bridge the gap between knowledge generation and development outcomes.