Climate smart agriculture makes sense

Wind energy

Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) is an overarching term for the integrated approach to managing landscapes (cropland, livestock, forests and fisheries) in such a manner so as to address the linkages between food security and climate change.

CSA therefore aims to increase productivity and resilience while at the same time reducing harmful food-production practices.

Practical examples of CSA for farmers range from measures to improve energy and water use efficiency, farming with adapted and diversified plants and animals, improving and conserving soil (including composting, low tillage, crop rotation and constant ground-covering), biosecurity measures and vaccinations, the management of methane emissions, carbon sequestration, reduction of waste, as well as climate-related disaster readiness and response measures.

CSA creates opportunities throughout the food production and distribution value chain. This includes the development and application of digital information systems and other electronic and mechanical advancements, carbon pricing and carbon markets, as well as new approaches to financing and insurance, amongst others.

Challenges with the respect to adopting CSA sometimes entail the fear of changing tried and tested farming methods. Most farmers in South Africa do not have the luxury of being able to afford experimenting if there is a risk of failure. The profitability and bankability of CSA investments over the short term often ways heavier than medium and longer-term benefits.

From a public policy point of view, coordination of various inter-related factors (for example the food-energy-water connection) is not always fully appreciated. Ongoing research and development should be aimed at providing immediately available and cost-efficient benefits. 

From a banking and insurance point of view, the inability to assess and quantify lending risk for CSA projects often poses the most important barrier. In certain parts of the world and in South Africa, the effects of climate change are becoming clearer with each passing season. Changing to CSA is a way to both mitigate and adapt to climate risk, very often by simply applying climate-smart common sense.