The road to climate-resilient cereal and livestock farming
©CIMYTT/Johnson Siamachira

Climate-Smart Agriculture

The road to climate-resilient cereal and livestock farming

Since the release of the Food and Agriculture Organization’s Report, Livestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options, the livestock industry drew intense scrutiny worldwide for its contribution to the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Yet, there is hardly any sector of human and economic activity without a distinct contribution to climate change, and many institutions, including CTA, are working tirelessly to create innovative climate-resilient solutions.

It is estimated that 14% of human-generated greenhouse gases are a result of agriculture; and that almost half of all methane, and nearly 60% of nitrous oxide, emissions are generated by agricultural activities, including livestock production. Animal protein is key to food security and nutrition, this means that there is a growing portfolio of work, completed and ongoing, on multiple fronts – global, regional and national – to reduce the contribution of the livestock sector to climate change and ensure farmers, partners and communities are not only climate-resilient, but that they essentially discover the true meaning of being 'climate-smart'.

In September 2016, CTA and the Southern African Confederation of Agricultural Unions (SACAU) organised a regional meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa, to "build climate-resilient cereal and livestock farming in Southern Africa". CTA and partners identified four proven solutions that cereal and livestock farmers can adopt to make the transition to climate-resilient agriculture: stress-tolerant germplasm, ICT-enabled climate information services, diversifying livestock-based livelihoods and weather-based insurance.

Solutions to ensure profitability and sustainability

The validated solutions, specifically aimed at cereal and livestock farmers, reaffirm the importance of farmers as central actors in agricultural development. As the meeting's participants acknowledged, farmers are entrepreneurs and business people, and therefore strive to increase their farming enterprises' profitability as well as improve their livelihoods. But in order to realise the full benefits of the tested solutions, livestock farmers require support – financial, institutional and intellectual – from stakeholders to remain climate-resilient.

The shift from the usual response of 'drought relief' (providing farmers whose crops have failed with food aid) to 'production relief' (supporting farmers to make changes that allow them to grow cereals and rear livestock in an uncertain climate), is possible and long overdue. The meeting discussed the business case for the engagement of the private sector in scaling up climate-smart practices. It also assessed the existing level of use of mobile communications, ICT, knowledge management and extension tools to disseminate agricultural information to smallholder farmers. Participants were drawn from partner organisations, the private sector, farmers' organisations, banks and financial sector players, mobile and ICT operators, and national and regional government institutions. The meeting led to detailed implementation strategies for scaling-up each of the solutions in the region.

Read more Publication: 'Climate Solutions that Work for Farmers' (CTA, 2016)