The Dutch Government recently hosted a meeting of prospective members of a Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture, the fourth such meeting involving government officials, farmers, private sector, and civil society organization representatives, the UN Secretary General’s Special Advisor on Food and Nutrition Security David Nabarro, and various UN development experts. Participants met from July 9-11 in anticipation of the expected launch of this Alliance by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at his September 23rd Climate Summit in New York.
Climate-smart agriculture, as described by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, is "an approach to developing the technical, policy and investment conditions to achieve sustainable agricultural development for food security under climate change. The magnitude, immediacy and broad scope of the effects of climate change on agricultural systems create a compelling need to ensure comprehensive integration of these effects into national agricultural planning, investments and programs." The Climate-Smart Agriculture approach is designed “to identify and operationalize sustainable agricultural development within the explicit parameters of climate change....It is composed of three main pillars: sustainably increasing agricultural productivity and incomes; adapting and building resilience to climate change; and reducing and/or removing greenhouse gases emissions where possible" -- i.e., a “triple win.”
Over the course of three days, conference participants deliberated over a draft framework document that will define the vision, purpose, and structure for collaborative action of the Alliance, once it is formally launched. At the heart of that framework is a commitment to address the impacts of agriculture, forestry, and fisheries on climate change, and the impacts of climate change on global food and nutrition security.
During the conference, the U.S. delegation outlined steps that the United States is taking to deal with the challenges of climate change on American soil, as well as abroad through its development programs including President Obama's flagship food security program, Feed the Future. With its 19 Feed the Future country partners, the United States is encouraging inclusion of climate smart policies into national food security investment strategies to prepare for and respond to the challenges of climate change on food and agriculture systems. To address such challenges at home, U.S. Department of Agriculture has created seven 'Climate Hubs' around the country, working with local research institutions, farmers, and other stakeholders to spread awareness and share state-of-the-art research and conservation practices to improve the resilience of farming and ranching in the face of climate change. USDA's research wing is also leading the way with efforts to share its research and data through the Global Research Alliance and in other ways. And, U.S. government-funded Feed the Future innovation labs are engaged in the development of climate-resilient varieties of beans, chickpeas, cowpea, millet, sorghum, and wheat.
Conference participants described responses to climatic shifts that are impacting productivity, consumption patterns, air, water, and soil quality, and efforts to achieve national and regional food security. Delegates from Africa described how a group of six UN and non-governmental organizations recently formed an Africa Climate-Smart Agriculture Alliance to assist African farmers to strengthen their resiliency to climate change while increasing productivity and incomes. A representative of the African Union described how heads of state met in June and agreed to prioritize a continental response to climate change through climate smart agricultural policies. In Asia, Latin America, and elsewhere, national governments and regional institutions are taking steps to protect livelihoods through adaptive programs and policies aimed at increasing resilience to rapidly changing weather patterns. Also leading the way are the World Bank, the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, innovative companies, foundations, and farmers organizations working to strengthen and secure agriculture, forest, and fishery products value chains.
The U.S. government looks forward to contributing to this process both by partnering with farmers at home, and by assisting its partners abroad. Should the Alliance be launched in September, the U.S. government hopes this forum will be an open, inclusive, collaborative platform to help farmers increase their productivity while adapting to changing weather patterns, and decreasing greenhouse gas emissions. Like Feed the Future initiative, we hope the Alliance will advance gender equality and empower women and girls through programs aimed at women small-holder farmers. Furthermore, we hope the Alliance’s contributions will compliment the Post-2015 Development Agenda, where food security and climate change are also being addressed.
About the Author: Chris Hegadorn serves as the Director of the Secretary of State's Office of Global Food Security.