November 13, 2012

Climate-Smart for Agriculture and Food Security

Rachel Friedman, University of Queensland

Climate-smart beyond the farm gate

The impact of climate change on agriculture is an issue of monumental importance. Climate-smart (CSA) is a term that describes the vision for agricultural systems that strive to not only sustainably increase production, but also reduce or sequester greenhouse gas emissions, build resilience to climate change impacts, and achieve national food security and development goals (See the consortium of UN organizations and CGIAR institutions on this topic). Much of the early work on CSA has focused on the farm and field level practices that can contribute to climate change adaptation and mitigation; however, effective implementation of CSA often requires an integrated landscape management strategy that combines a diversity of land uses in synergistic ways throughout agricultural landscapes.

A recent review article, From Climate-Smart Agriculture to Climate-Smart Landscapes, in the new peer-reviewed journal Agriculture and Food Security describes the principles for designing and implementing climate-smart landscapesOne of the Global Review products of the Landscapes for People, Food and Nature Initiative, the article contributes to a special issue of the journal focusing on topics related to climate-smart agriculture. Others in this series include Beddington, et al. on the role for scientists in tackling food insecurity in a changing climate, and Bogdanski on integrated food-energy systems. 

Climate-smart landscapes include a variety of features that support each other and work together to create resilience, mitigation, and adaptation benefits. Diagram by EcoAgriculture Partners, photo by Nathan Dappen.

Three key features

Three key features that characterize a climate-smart landscape are described in detail: (1) climate-smart practices at the field and farm scale; (2) diversity of land use across the landscape to provide resilience; and (3) management of land use interactions at a landscape scale to achieve social, economic, and ecological impacts. The article also explores the institutional mechanisms (such as multi-stakeholder processes and integrated finance mechanisms) needed to implement climate-smart agricultural landscapes with these features.

Great Green Wall example

One example introduced in the article is the Great Green Wall Initiative in the African Sahel. Adopted as a response to the combined impacts of land degradation and drought on rural livelihoods and the environment, the goal of the Great Green Wall Initiative is to expand sustainable land and water management in targeted, climate vulnerable landscapes. While individual projects implementing climate-smart agricultural practices are undertaken in various countries, the Initiative acts as an umbrella to direct action and manage trade-offs and synergies between land uses. The Global Environment Facility streamlines the financing of activities, pooling resources from multiple sources. Meanwhile, case studies from Madagascar’s Highlands and the Australian Wet Tropics illustrate the application of climate-smart landscape principles in contrasting contexts. While still in development, these cases demonstrate the institutional, financial, and technical challenges of climate-smart landscapes as well as their potential.

The results of these experiences and others like them will inform the investments in landscape stakeholder capacities and institutional development that will be required to support climate-smart landscapes in the future. In the coming weeks, the Landscapes Blog will explore a bit more deeply the traits and issues related to climate-smart landscapes, and how they be successfully implemented and expanded.

Read the article

Scherr, S.J., S. Shames, and R. Friedman. 2012. From climate-smart agriculture to climate-smart landscapes. Agriculture & Food Security 1(12). doi:10.1186/2048-7010-1-12 Available at:

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