Progressing Towards Sustainable Development through Climate-Smart Agriculture

Agriculture is one of those few sectors that can both contribute to or mitigate climate change. The sector accounts for roughly one-fourth of global greenhouse gas emissions. This ratio becomes even higher for some developing countries where agriculture and forestry sectors are dominant. GHGs are on the rise globally with a 17% contribution of agricultural activities and an additional 7-14% through changes in land use.

Nearly 32% of global land has seen a change in its use. Forests have been cut down to expand arable areas at an alarming pace. Today’s agricultural land occupies around 5 billion hectares which is roughly 38% of the total land surface. Ever since the Second World War, the agriculture sector has been driven by the sole intention to feed a growing number of people on the planet, emphasizing almost entirely on the yield.

The agrochemical industry is the one to uphold the pace of production to meet global population needs relying heavily on pesticides and fertilizers. The intensive use of chemicals is followed by soil erosion and degradation as well as loss of biodiversity. In fact, since the industrial revolution, approximately 135 billion tons of soil have been lost from farmland largely owing to agriculture.

As of 2020, nearly 690 people – or 9% of the global population – are hungry. This is a horrifying number. Especially when 1/3 of global food production either ends up lost or wasted. Considering the estimation of population increase to 9 billion by 2050, the food security challenge is expected to get only exacerbated. This means more strain on agriculture and ultimately the very bad news for the fight against climate change.

The future seems even darker if one considers the fact that a changed climate eventually pays back to the agriculture sector itself. Agriculture is projected to be the second most economically affected sector by climate change. Increasing temperature, weather variability, and extreme weather events shifting Agroecosystems, invasive crops, and pests in turn decrease crop yields, their nutritional value, and lower livestock productivity.

What is Climate- Smart Agriculture?

Climate-smart agriculture (CSA) encompasses the three core dimensions of sustainable development: environmental, social, and economic. It is an integrated approach to addressing interlinked challenges of food security and climate change. It aims to manage landscapes: cropland, livestock, forests, and fisheries and is concentrated on achieving 3 simultaneous outcomes which at scale showcase the potential of feeding our planet:

  • Sustainably increasing agricultural productivity and incomes
  • Adapting and building resilience to climate change
  • Reducing and/or avoiding greenhouse gas emissions, where possible

Why Climate-Smart Agriculture?

Climate-smart agriculture is intended to support the 4 betters, that are:

  • Better Production
  • Better Nutrition
  • Better Environment
  • Better Life for all, leaving no one behind

While CSA bases itself on existing knowledge, technology, and principles, it is distinct in multiple ways:

  • It has a very explicit focus on addressing the climate change
  • It considers synergies between productivity, adaptation, and mitigation
  • It aims to capture new funding opportunities and close the deficit in investment

What can be done to support the fight against Climate Change?

At the individual level, we must realize that the agricultural sector develops alongside customer demands. And to help mitigate the impact of climate change we shall consider altering our eating habits e.g., by cutting down on the consumption of red meat.

Although consumer habits might change over time, the solution with a larger scale and impact is an absolute necessity. To help mitigate climate change a global collaborative solution must emerge. Actors across agricultural value changes require support and incentives from the governments to move to more sustainable production. Moreover, policy changes need to occur on international, national, and sectoral levels to form the basis of such development.

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