Climate change has devastated the livelihoods of millions of farmers in the developing world. As frequent droughts threaten countries’ food security, the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) has recommended farmers undertake climate-smart farming initiatives. Climate-smart farming techniques include zero-till farming, surface seeding, laser land leveling, and organic crops usage. While the literature on the efficiency of climate-smart farming is sparse, several countries have shown promising results.
Success in Vietnam
Researchers from Ritsumeikan University found that climate-smart farming adaptations actually improved rice yields in Vietnam. The study looked at the technical efficiency of 352 farmers in the Mekong Delta, 71% of which practiced climate-smart farming. CSA pilot programs in the Mekong Delta provided local farmers with different rice varieties, sustainable fertilizers, and knowledge on new eco-friendly farming techniques.
While farmers often experience trade-offs in production when implementing sustainable farming techniques, climate-smart farmers in the Mekong Delta saw 13-14% increased efficiency. The authors defined technical efficiency to measure how competitive farmers were compared to peers.
Improving outcomes for women in Nepal
Over the past few decades, much of Nepal has experienced a cultural shift. As more men have moved to find migrant work, women have taken on huge labor burdens in agriculture. Therefore, improving agricultural efficiency is important for reducing poverty and labor inequality for women. Researchers from the Nepal Development Research Institute found that climate-smart farming reduced labor hours for Nepalese women.
Techniques like surface sowing and new technologies greatly reduced the number of labor hours women had to spend in the fields. Researchers hope that this reduced labor burden will allow women to have more time for education, other employment, and household decisions. Thus, climate-smart farming can be a surprisingly important tool for improving gender equality.
Growth potential in Africa
Many parts of Southern and Eastern Africa suffer from frequent droughts. Food production is also mostly supplied by small-scale farmers who are often not equipped to deal with extreme weather. Luckily, researchers, investors, and organizations have taken notice of the need for climate smart farming in Sub Saharan Africa. Over the next few years over $500 million will be invested in climate-smart farming programs in Sub Saharan Africa.
Kenya livestock insurance program
The Kenya Livestock Insurance Program (KLIP) was a unique climate-smart agriculture case since it dealt with livestock rather than crop yields. The Kenyan government partnered with the private sector to use satellites to monitor vegetation in pastures.
Based on vegetation levels, the government issued payouts to help farmers keep their livestock alive during droughts. As of 2019, the program covers over 18,000 farmers. Programs similar to the KLIP can be implemented across the world, but adoption is still low.
While climate-smart agriculture has shown promising results, there are still barriers to adoption. Researchers at the World Agroforestry Center reviewed about 150 papers on climate-smart agriculture. Based on said papers. They argue a lack of research on the economic results of climate-smart agriculture deters would-be investors.
Improving research on climate-smart agriculture’s effects on output and efficiency is key to accelerating the adoption of climate-smart agriculture.
Austin is an Editor for the Agribusiness section at The Rising and an Economics student at the University of Chicago.