Climate-smart agriculture

Climate-smart agriculture (CSA) (or climate resilient agriculture) is a set of farming methods that has three main objectives with regards to climate change.[1][2] Firstly, they use adaptation methods to respond to the effects of climate change on agriculture (this also builds resilience to climate change). Secondly, they aim to increase agricultural productivity and to ensure food security for a growing world population. Thirdly, they try to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture as much as possible (for example by following carbon farming approaches). Climate-smart agriculture works as an integrated approach to managing land. This approach helps farmers to adapt their agricultural methods (for raising livestock and crops) to the effects of climate change.[2]

A man in a hat holding a yellow mango stands in front of a large white sign in a field of mangos.
A local farmer in Myanmar poses in front of a mango field that is a part of a Climate Smart Village.

There are different actions to adapt to the future challenges for crops and livestock. For example, with regard to rising temperatures and heat stress, CSA can include the planting of heat tolerant crop varieties, mulching, boundary trees, and appropriate housing and spacing for cattle.[3]

There are attempts to mainstream CSA into core government policies and planning frameworks. In order for CSA policies to be effective, they must contribute to broader economic growth and poverty reduction.[4]



The World Bank described climate-smart agriculture (CSA) as follows: "CSA is a set of agricultural practices and technologies which simultaneously boost productivity, enhance resilience and reduce GHG emissions."[2] and "CSA is an integrated approach to managing landscapes—cropland, livestock, forests and fisheries--that address the interlinked challenges of food security and climate change."[2]

FAO's definition is: "CSA is an approach that helps guide actions to transform agri-food systems towards green and climate resilient practices."[1]



CSA has the following three objectives: "sustainably increasing agricultural productivity and incomes; adapting and building resilience to climate change; and reducing and/or removing greenhouse gas emissions".[1]

Others describe the objectives as follows: mitigate the adverse impacts of climate change on agriculture, stabilize crop production, maximize food security.[5][6]

Increasing climate resilience


Cclimate change is altering global rainfall patterns. This affects agriculture.[7] Rainfed agriculture accounts for 80% of global agriculture.[8] Many of the 852 million poor people in the world live in parts of Asia and Africa that depend on rainfall to cultivate food crops. Climate change will modify rainfall, evaporation, runoff, and soil moisture storage. Extended drought can cause the failure of small and marginal farms. This results in increased economic, political and social disruption.

Water availability strongly influences all kinds of agriculture. Changes in total seasonal precipitation or its pattern of variability are both important. Moisture stress during flowering, pollination, and grain-filling harms most crops. It is particularly harmful to corn, soybeans, and wheat. Increased evaporation from the soil and accelerated transpiration in the plants themselves will cause moisture stress.

There are many adaptation options. One is to develop crop varieties with greater drought tolerance[9] and another is to build local rainwater storage. Using small planting basins to harvest water in Zimbabwe has boosted maize yields. This happens whether rainfall is abundant or scarce. And in Niger they have led to three or fourfold increases in millet yields.[10]

Climate change can threaten food security and water security. It is possible to adapt food systems to improve food security and prevent negative impacts from climate change in the future.[11]

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions

One quarter of the world's greenhouse gas emissions result from food and agriculture (data from 2019).[12]

Farm animals' digestive systems can be put into two categories: monogastric and ruminant. Ruminant cattle for beef and dairy rank high in greenhouse gas emissions. In comparison, monogastric, or pigs and poultry-related foods, are lower. The consumption of the monogastric types may yield less emissions. Monogastric animals have a higher feed-conversion efficiency, and also do not produce as much methane.[13] Non-ruminant livestock, such as poultry, emit far fewer greenhouse gases.[14]

There are many strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture (this is one of the goals of climate-smart agriculture). Mitigation measures in the food system can be divided into four categories. These are demand-side changes, ecosystem protections, mitigation on farms, and mitigation in supply chains. On the demand side, limiting food waste is an effective way to reduce food emissions. Changes to a diet less reliant on animal products such as plant-based diets are also effective.[15]: XXV  This could include milk substitutes and meat alternatives. Several methods are also under investigation to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from livestock farming. These include genetic selection,[16][17] introduction of methanotrophic bacteria into the rumen,[18][19] vaccines, feeds,[20] diet modification and grazing management.[21][22][23]



Strategies and methods for CSA should be specific to the local contexts where they are employed. They should include capacity-building for participants in order to offset the higher costs of implementation.[24]

Carbon farming


Carbon farming is one of the components of climate-smart agriculture and aims at reducing or removing greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture.

Carbon farming is a set of agricultural methods that aim to store carbon in the soil, crop roots, wood and leaves. The technical term for this is carbon sequestration. The overall goal of carbon farming is to create a net loss of carbon from the atmosphere.[25] This is done by increasing the rate at which carbon is sequestered into soil and plant material. One option is to increase the soil's organic matter content. This can also aid plant growth, improve soil water retention capacity[26] and reduce fertilizer use.[27] Sustainable forest management is another tool that is used in carbon farming.[28] Carbon farming is one component of climate-smart agriculture. It is also one way to remove carbon dioxide from the atmisphere.

Agricultural methods for carbon farming include adjusting how tillage and livestock grazing is done, using organic mulch or compost, working with biochar and terra preta, and changing the crop types. Methods used in forestry include reforestation and bamboo farming.

Gender-responsive approach

Woman picking peas in the Mount Kenya region, for the Two Degrees Up[29] project, to look at the impact of climate change on agriculture

To increase the effectiveness and sustainability of CSA interventions, they must be designed to address gender inequalities and discriminations against people at risk.[30]: 1  Women farmers are more prone to climate risk than men are. In developing countries, women have less access compared to men to productive resources, financial capital, and advisory services. They often tend to be excluded from decision making which may impact on their adoption of technologies and practices that could help them adapt to climatic conditions. A gender-responsive approach to CSA tries to identify and address the diverse constraints faced by men and women and recognizes their specific capabilities.[30]

Climate-smart agriculture presents opportunities for women in agriculture to engage in sustainable production.[31]

Monitoring tools


FAO has identified several tools for countries and individuals to assess, monitor and evaluate integral parts of CSA planning and implementation:[32]

  1. Modelling System for Agricultural Impacts of Climate Change (MOSAICC)
  2. Global Livestock Environmental Assessment Model (GLEAM)
  3. Sustainability Assessment of Food and Agriculture (SAFA) system[33]
  4. Economics and Policy Innovations for Climate-Smart Agriculture (EPIC)
  5. Ex-Ante Carbon-balance Tool (EX-ACT)
  6. Climate Risk Management (CRM)
  7. Gender mainstreaming
  8. Monitoring and Assessment of Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Mitigation Potential in Agriculture (MAGHG) project

Major initiatives


European Green Deal


The EU has promoted the development of climate-smart agriculture and forestry practices[34] as part of the European Green Deal Policy.[35] A critical assessment of progress was carried out using different multi-criteria indices covering socio-economic, technical and environmental factors.[36] The results indicated that the most advanced CSA countries within the EU are Austria, Denmark and the Netherlands. The countries with the lowest levels of CSA penetration are Cyprus, Greece and Portugal. Key factors included labor productivity, female ownership of farmland, level of education, degree of poverty and social exclusion, energy consumption/efficiency and biomass/crop productivity.[36] The Horizon Europe research programme has created a focus on CSA and climate-smart farming within the EU.[37][38] Projects deal with co-creation among stakeholders to change behavior and understanding within agricultural value chains. Investigative CSA studies on pig, dairy, fruit, vegetable and grain farms have been carried out in Denmark, Germany, Spain, Netherlands and Lithuania, respectively.[39]

AIM for Climate


The Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate (AIM for Climate/AIM4C) is a 5-year initiative to 2025, organized jointly by the UN, US and UAE.[40] The objective is to rally around climate-smart agriculture and food system innovations. It has attracted some 500 government and non-government organizations around the world and about US$10 billion from governments and US$3 billion from other sources.[41] The initiative was introduced during COP-26 in Glasgow.[42]

The CGIAR as part of the AIM4C summit in May 2023 called for a number of actions:[43] Integration of initiatives from the partner organizations, enabling innovative financing, production of radical policy and governance reform based on evidence. And lastly, promotion of project monitoring, evaluation, and learning

Global Roadmap to 2050 for Food and Agriculture

Global food systems GHG emissions in 2020 for different agriculture sectors in terms of gigatons of CO2 equivalents

Several actors are involved in creating pathways towards net-zero emissions in global food systems.[44]

Four areas of focus relate to:

  • lowered GHG-emission practices by increasing production efficiency
  • increased sequestration of carbon in croplands and grasslands
  • shifting of human diets away from livestock protein
  • taking on "new-horizon" technologies within the food systems

Livestock production (beef, pork, chicken, sheep and milk) alone accounts for 60% of total global food system GHG emissions.[44] Rice, maize and wheat stand for 25% of the global emissions from food systems.

Challenges, criticisms


The greatest concern with CSA is that no universally acceptable standard exists against which those who call themselves "climate-smart" are actually acting "smart". Until those certifications are created and met, skeptics are concerned that big businesses will just continue to use the name to 'greenwash' their organizations—or provide a false sense of environmental stewardship.[45] CSA can be seen as a meaningless label that is applicable to virtually anything, and this is deliberate as it is meant to conceal the social, political and environmental implications of the different technology choices.

In 2014 The Guardian reported that climate-smart agriculture had been criticized as a form of greenwashing.[46]

Contradictions surrounding practical value of CSA among consumers and suppliers may be the reason why the European Union is lagging with CSA implementation compared to other areas of the world.[47]

See also



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  2. ^ a b c d "Climate-Smart Agriculture". World Bank. Retrieved 2019-07-26.
  3. ^ Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). "What is Climate Smart Agriculture?" (PDF). Retrieved 2022-06-04.
  4. ^ "Climate-Smart Agriculture Policies and planning". Archived from the original on 2016-03-31.
  5. ^ Gupta, Debaditya; Gujre, Nihal; Singha, Siddhartha; Mitra, Sudip (2022-11-01). "Role of existing and emerging technologies in advancing climate-smart agriculture through modeling: A review". Ecological Informatics. 71: 101805. doi:10.1016/j.ecoinf.2022.101805. ISSN 1574-9541. S2CID 252148026.
  6. ^ Lipper, Leslie; McCarthy, Nancy; Zilberman, David; Asfaw, Solomon; Branca, Giacomo (2018). Climate Smart Agriculture Building Resilience to Climate Change. Cham, Switzerland: Springer. p. 13. ISBN 978-3-319-61193-8.
  7. ^ Jennings, Paul A. (February 2008). "Dealing with Climate Change at the Local Level" (PDF). Chemical Engineering Progress. 104 (2). American Institute of Chemical Engineers: 40–44. Archived from the original (PDF) on 1 December 2008. Retrieved 29 February 2008.
  8. ^ Falkenmark, Malin; Rockstrom, Johan; Rockström, Johan (2004). Balancing Water for Humans and Nature: The New Approach in Ecohydrology. Earthscan. pp. 67–68. ISBN 978-1-85383-926-9.
  9. ^ Berthouly-Salazar, Cécile; Vigouroux, Yves; Billot, Claire; Scarcelli, Nora; Jankowski, Frédérique; Kane, Ndjido Ardo; Barnaud, Adeline; Burgarella, Concetta (2019). "Adaptive Introgression: An Untapped Evolutionary Mechanism for Crop Adaptation". Frontiers in Plant Science. 10: 4. doi:10.3389/fpls.2019.00004. ISSN 1664-462X. PMC 6367218. PMID 30774638.
  10. ^ "Diverse water sources key to food security: report". Reuters. 2010-09-06. Retrieved 2023-02-08.
  11. ^ "Adapting to climate change to sustain food security". International Livestock Research Institute. 16 November 2020.
  12. ^ "Food production is responsible for one-quarter of the world's greenhouse gas emissions". Our World in Data. Retrieved 2023-07-20.
  13. ^ Friel, Sharon; Dangour, Alan D.; Garnett, Tara; et al. (2009). "Public health benefits of strategies to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions: food and agriculture". The Lancet. 374 (9706): 2016–2025. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(09)61753-0. PMID 19942280. S2CID 6318195.
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