Blog Post

Climate-Smart Agriculture in South Asia and SSA: Unlocking Triple-Win Potential

South Asia and Africa south of the Sahara face significant and burgeoning threats to food security and economic well-being as a result of climate change. These challenges are further complicated by rapid population growth in both regions, leading to both an increased demand for food and increased environmental strains and the potential for unsustainable agricultural practices to boost production. Climate-smart agriculture (CSA) may be a feasible a solution to these challenges, if implemented appropriately and with local contexts in mind. A brief from the Reaching Women with CSA program looks at how effective some climate-smart agricultural programs have been in increasing climate change adaptation, mitigating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and boosting agricultural productivity.

The study examines farmers in India, Kenya, and Uganda who participated in a project to identify local CSA practices. The identified practices included:

  • Climate-smart pest management (CSPM) and disease management such as intercropping, pruning, weeding, retention of natural habitats, and use of pheromone traps
  • Climate-smart livestock management such as improved manure management, feeding strategies, and use of livestock shelters
  • Use of cover crops
  • Use of crop rotation
  • Adoption of drought-resistant seed varieties
  • Intercropping
  • Minimum tillage
  • Mulching
  • Use of organic pesticides
  • Use of soil bunds to harvest rain water
  • Soil testing
  • Use of zai pits to reduce water erosion and act as carbon sinks

The study authors then examined to what extent these practices impacted the three pillars of CSA in each country: agricultural productivity (both short-term and long-term), climate change adaptation, and GHG emission mitigation.

In India, farmers reported using soil testing, CPSM, and organic pesticides. All three practices had positive impacts on the three CSA pillars, although the impact of soil testing on short-term productivity was dependent on the cost of the testing.

In Kenya, farmers used drought-resistant crops, minimum tillage, mulching, cover crops, intercropping, zai pits, crop rotation, and improved manure management. The majority had positive impacts across all three pillars, but there were several exceptions when it came to short-term agricultural productivity. Minimum tillage, intercropping, and crop rotation all had a negative impact on this pillar.

In Uganda, farmers used climate-smart livestock management (specifically poultry and pig), CSPM, organic pesticides, soil bunds, and intercropping. As was the case in Kenya, most of these practices had positive impacts. However, intercropping and the use of soil bunds were found to have a negative impact on short-term productivity.

The report concludes that these CSA practices overall have the impact to drive significant improvements in all three CSA pillars, thus contributing to improved food security and economic outcomes in the study countries. The report also emphasizes that to harness the full potential of these practices, policymakers and development practitioners should consider implementing multiple practices at once. This holistic approach will leverage important synergies among the practices – for example, use of mulching and manure can improve the functioning of zai pits – that will ramp up the positive effects more quickly. In addition, local conditions and contexts need to be taken into account in order to ensure that the encouraged practices meet the needs of farmers.