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Fostering Sustainability and Innovation in Agriculture
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FAO, European Commission Launch Climate-Smart Agriculture Development Program

January 19, 2012 |

Farmers and others working in the agricultural sectors in Malawi, Vietnam and Zambia will be the beneficiaries of a three-year, 5.3 million euro (~$6.8 million) “climate smart” agriculture and development transition project launched by UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and European Commission (EC). Aimed at reducing agricultural greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and ameliorating the damaging risks associated with climate change, the project’s goals have a two-fold focus: reducing hunger and poverty through agricultural sector development and facilitating adoption of practices for climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Millions of people in Malawi, Vietnam and Zambia depend on small-scale farming for their basic needs and income. Yet, at the same time, their livelihoods are “highly vulnerable to climate change impacts,” the FAO and EC note. Agriculture is estimated to account for as much as 20% of GHG emissions worldwide, one of the largest contributors to global climate change.

The FAO will lead the climate-smart development project, working with national policy and research institutions and global organizations, such as the Global Crop Diversity Trust, to carry out the project. Working with local and other partners, project team personnel will identify challenges and opportunities to implementing changes in each of the three countries’ agricultural sectors and craft tailor-made strategic plans to facilitate a transition to more sustainable, environmentally-friendly agricultural practices.

“The problems of climate change are increasingly being felt on the ground, and thus early actions to address the problem are needed, even as international negotiations continue in the search for a global climate agreement,” said FAO Assistant Director-General for the Economic and Social Development Department, Hafez Ghanem.

“We need to start putting climate-smart agriculture into practice, working closely with farmers and their communities. But there are no one-size-fits-all solutions — better climate-smart farming practices need to respond to different local conditions, to geography, weather and the natural resource base,” he added.

FAO Climate-Smart Agriculture Overview

Thus, the project leaders will seek to identify and implement “climate-smart” farming practices that enhance the climate change resilience of crops and livestock, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and foster adoption of farming practices that capture and sequester atmospheric carbon.

The critical challenges of food security and climate change can both be addressed by transforming and adopting agricultural practices that are climate-smart, the FAO asserts, noting that “a number of production systems are already being used by farmers and food producers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, adapt to climate change, and reduce vulnerability.”

The FAO’s “Climate Smart Agriculture” website lists the following food production system elements required to improve food production systems’ efficiency, resilience, adaptive capacity and climate change mitigation potential:

  • Improved soil and nutrient management
  • Water harvesting and conservation
  • Pest and disease control
  • Improved ecosystem management
  • Preservation of plant genetic resources

The project partners also aim to identify and develop the long-term financing sources required to realize a transition to climate-smart agriculture. Agriculture and other ministries in the respective governments and FAO will work with local and international organizations to identify innovative means for linking climate finance with climate-smart agriculture investments and build the capacity to plan and implement climate-smart projects that can attract international investments.

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