Messages from the ReSAKSS Conference on Climate Smart Agriculture

By Alex De Pinto

The 2017 ReSAKSS Annual Conference took place in Maputo, Mozambique on October 25-27, 2017. The conference brought together over 150 participants, including many high-level representatives of agricultural ministries and regional government bodies, to discuss the findings of the Annual Trends and Outlook Report, which this year provides in depth analysis on the topic of Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA). Specifically, the report examines the potential contribution of CSA to meeting Malabo Declaration goals by taking stock of the current knowledge on the effects of climate change, by reviewing the existing evidence of the effectiveness of various CSA strategies, and by discussing examples of CSA-based practices and tools for developing evidence-based policies and programs.

Several important messages surfaced during the two-day discussions. CSA, with its multi-pronged approach, offers an opportunity to address the challenges of meeting future food security demands under a changing climate. Widespread adoption of CSA practices can boost agricultural production and trade, with a consequent reduction in food prices and poverty. CSA can also improve environmental security by increasing soil organic carbon content, or at least reducing soil carbon losses, thereby contributing to increased agricultural productivity in a more sustainable manner compared to current practices. CSA approaches need to be considered in local agroecological, policy, and institutional contexts, given that climate risks, environmental and social challenges, and potential effectiveness of various CSA approaches can vary dramatically.

However, it became clear at the event that many decisionmakers view CSA as a set of agronomic practices and want to know which CSA strategies will provide the greatest positive effects. This is a reductive interpretation of CSA that does not exploit the full potential of the approach. CSA provides a framework for decision-making applicable at the farm as well as the policy level. It offers a set of guiding principles to identify technologies, management practices and tools, and policies that enable farmers to meet the challenges of producing under changing climate regimes by concurrently considering the three pillars of enhancing productivity, increasing resilience, and mitigating GHG emissions and the tradeoffs among these goals. Effective climate smart-development must take place within sustainable food systems, not just at the farm level, and should consider gender and other social implications, nutritional outcomes, different livelihood approaches, and food value chains. For this to happen, significant investments in capacity building on many levels are necessary.