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Climate-Smart Agriculture

To fight desertification, let's manage our land better

Ademola Braimoh's picture

Every year, we lose 24 billion tons of fertile soil to erosion and 12 million hectares of land to desertification and drought.  This threatens the lives and livelihoods of 1.5 billion people now.

In the future, desertification could displace up to 135 million people by 2045. Land degradation could also reduce global food production by up to 12% and push world food prices up by 30%. In Egypt, Ghana, Central African Republic, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Paraguay, land degradation could cause an annual GDP loss of up to 7%.

Pressure on land resources is expected to increase as populations grow, socio-economic development happens and the climate changes. A growing population will demand more food, which means that unsuitable or especially biodiverse land will be claimed for farming and be more vulnerable to degradation. Increased fertilizer and pesticide use related to agriculture will increase nutrient loading in soils, causing eutrophication and declines in fertility over time. Climate change will also aggravate land degradation—especially in drylands, which occupy 40% of global land area, and are inhabited by some 2 billion people. Urban areas, which are located in the world’s highly fertile areas, could grow to account for more than 5% of global land by mid-century.

 Unless we manage our land better, every person will rely on just .11 hectares of land for their food; down from .45 hectares in 1960. 

Food for thought

Kalyan Panja's picture
Webcast Replay

Appetizer of grasshoppers, seaweed soup, and as the main course, man-made burgers on the grill. Been twisting the nose? Yet we should get used to similar menus. According to UN estimates, to feed the 2.5 billion additional people, according to some forecasts, who will populate the Earth in 2050, we will need to double world food production, reduce waste, and experiment with food alternatives.

Greenhouse gas accounting: A step forward for climate-smart agriculture

Ademola Braimoh's picture
Climate-smart agriculture in Costa Rica, video
Costa Rica is putting climate-smart agriculture to use. Watch the video.

Agriculture is central to feeding the world and reducing poverty.
But conventional forms of agriculture are often unsustainable and drive land degradation. Agriculture is also the world’s leading anthropogenic source of methane (52 percent) and nitrous oxide (84 percent) emissions, and the principal driver of deforestation worldwide. Agriculture and agriculture-driven land-use change contribute 24 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
We can’t fix what we don’t measure, which is why quantifying greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural production is a necessary step for climate-smart agriculture (CSA). Greenhouse gas accounting can provide the numbers and data that are important to solid decision making.

Tackling climate change – for our kids

Jim Yong Kim's picture
If you have children or grandchildren, you probably have wondered what the world will be like for them in 20 or 30 years. Will it be a better place? Will climate change upend their lives? It's something I have thought about a lot since I became president of the World Bank Group in July 2012. Within the first few months in the job, I was briefed on an upcoming climate change report, and the findings shocked me. I knew then that tackling climate change would be one of my top priorities as leader of a development institution whose mission is ending extreme poverty by 2030 and boosting shared prosperity. If we don't start controlling climate change, the mission to end poverty will fail. Last week I delivered a lecture on climate change at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., to a roomful of young people who are surely thinking of climate change's impact on their lives. Climate scientists project that if we do nothing to control carbon emissions, temperatures could rise as much as 4 degrees Celsius by the 2080s. Mean temperatures during the last ice age were 4.5 degrees to 7 degrees Celsius lower than today, and the temperature had changed gradually over millennia. We're talking about that kind of temperature shift occurring in the future over a very short period of time. Life on Earth would be fundamentally different.

Climate finance: The public sector can't do this alone

Christian Grossmann's picture
A World Economic Forum event at COP20 brought together public and private sector leaders to discuss carbon pricing. Carlos Molina/World Bank
A discussion on carbon pricing at COP20 brought together executives from Unilever, pension fund AP4, and the BVRio Environmental Exchange, and officials from California, South Korea, and the World Bank Group. Carlos Molina/World Bank

​We’re doing a lot of talking and listening here at COP 20 in Lima about climate finance – how hundreds of billions of dollars were invested globally last year to clean up the air, get efficient energy to more people, make agriculture more productive, and build resilience to extreme weather events.

We all know and acknowledge much more still needs to be done – the International Energy Agency and others believe we need at least $1 trillion dollars of new investment each year to address climate change.

There’s no way that public money alone can meet that goal. We need to find ways to catalyze the limited public funds we have to unlock private investment. That, of course, means investors need to have the confidence that the right policies are in place to make long-term investments for the climate.

Delivering on Climate Smart Agriculture

Juergen Voegele's picture

Delivering food and nutrition security in the face of climate change is one of the biggest challenges of our generation. So it’s encouraging to see influential stakeholders around the world taking action today at the Climate Summit.  From the private sector’s efforts to put a price on carbon, to the energy sector’s focus on lowering emissions, key stakeholders are realizing that inaction is not an option.

But one sector has yet to get its act together. Climate action may be gaining momentum, but the agriculture sector is largely stuck in ‘business as usual’ mode.  Unlike other areas of the economy, it hasn’t made any big, transformational moves towards climate resilience or reducing emissions.  We are missing our “electric car”. 

Climate Action Now: Building Scalable Solutions

Rachel Kyte's picture

Farmer Hai Huynh Van is helping test drought- and flood-resilient rice varieties in Vietnam. G.Smith/CIATWith its scenarios of increasing risks as a result of climate change – from sea level rise to disappearing fish populations, food insecurity, and forest diebacks from extreme heat – the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) paints a picture of a complicated future where no one gets by unscathed, where existing vulnerabilities are exacerbated, and where, as Fred Pearce so aptly puts it, we need to “prepare for the worst.”
But, as the scientists rightly point out, it doesn’t have to be like this.

Growing Enough Nutritious Food Amid Climate Change

Rachel Kyte's picture

 C.Schubert/CCAFSInternational Green Week in Berlin, the world's largest exhibition for agriculture, food, and horticulture, is the sort of place where you can taste food from all over the world, see animals of all shapes and sizes (ever heard of a Pustertaler Schecken?), and explore the latest innovations in GPS-guided agricultural machinery. The event attracts not only 400,000 curious visitors, it also draws global decision-makers from government, the private sector, science, and civil society, including some 70 ministers of agriculture.

Established in 1926, this event could probably make a reasonable claim that it has seen it all before.  But, of course, it hasn’t. This year, the focus was on resilience.

The already present impacts of climate change are demanding innovation and partnership in agriculture on a scale never seen before.  It is not an academic discussion about some uncertain future – it is posing challenges to farmers today, and it’s having an impact on their bottom lines.

The Good News and Bad News on Agriculture and Climate Change

Rachel Kyte's picture
 CGIAR Climate.I have recently returned from the United Nations climate talks that were held in Warsaw, Poland, and I have both good and bad news.
The bad news is that delegates opted to delay again discussions of agriculture. This decision, given agriculture’s substantial and well-documented contribution to greenhouse gas emissions, reveals the discomfort negotiators still feel around the science and priorities of what we consider “climate-smart agriculture”.
The decision to postpone is short-sighted when we consider the potential agriculture has to become part of the global solution. Agriculture is the only sector that can not only mitigate, but also take carbon out of the atmosphere. It has the potential to substantially sequester global carbon dioxide emissions in the soils of croplands, grazing lands and rangelands.
The good news is that there are steps we can take to make agriculture part of the solution. Importantly the discussions with farmers on how to improve incomes and yields, to serve the nutritional content of the food we grow, are our key focus. But we can at the same time improve resilience of food systems and achieve emissions reductions.

Plump Goats and Pawpaws: A Story of Climate-Smart Farming in Kenya

Rachel Kyte's picture
John Obuom
John Obuom and Poline Achieng’ Omondi are talking about their goats to a group of visitors that includes me. Turns out, cross-breeding local goats with Gala goats increases size, and cross-breeding Red Massai sheep with local sheep increases tolerance to heat and parasites. The result is a dramatically growing family income. Local goats fetch the equivalent of $20 at the markets; the improved goats bring in $80-90. The goats on the Obuom farm are noticeably plump and big for their age.
But that’s not the only benefit of the climate-smart techniques that John is describing. Milk production has tripled, leaving enough milk for the family and plenty left over to sell; flood and rainwater ponds reduce erosion and provide year-round water for irrigation; improved maize crops have increased disease-tolerance and productivity; intercropping pawpaw trees and food crops maximizes land use and more than doubles profits.  A small woodlot provides income and fertilizes the soil.
The countryside around the Obuom farm, where I was traveling last week, is not rich. The landscape is scarred by deep gullies caused by soil erosion. Half the people live below the poverty line; and malnutrition affects 45 percent of children under the age of five. Climate change and the resultant increasingly unpredictable rainfall will make this land even tougher to farm. Over the next 70 years, climate change could reduce food crop yieldsby as much as 16 percent worldwide and up to 28 percent in Africa. Yet climate-smart approaches are giving farmers better options and helping them increase production, incomes, and resilience, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.