September 21, 2012

On the Road to a Climate-Smart Future

Back at the beginning of September, around 400 participants convened in Vietnam, representing more than 150 countries, and including at least half of developing country ministries of agriculture. The Global Agriculture, Food Security, and Climate Change Conference held in Hanoi was convened by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation of the Netherlands, the FAO, and the World Bank. Now that the presentations and discussions are over, where is climate-smart agriculture headed?

The Final Communique from the conference stressed the need for integrated, systems-based approaches at various scales and across sectors. Focal areas included reducing food loss and waste in production, supply chains, and consumption; scaling up sustainable food production practices and incorporate indigenous knowledge; take actions toward restoring degraded land and addressing drought; and create better incentives in the agricultural sector.

Responding to the impacts of climate change and increasing resilience were important themes. The report recommended promoting policies, market reform, risk management instruments, and international cooperation to boost resilience. Research, extension services, and training on sustainable agriculture and responses to climate change informs policy and increases capacity of farmers and associations at the grassroots level. Partnerships and integrated finance mechanisms, both engaging the farmers and cooperatives, are also included as essential considerations moving forward.

Landscapes approaches had a strong presence and vocal support at the conference. Tony Simons, Director General of the World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF), gave a keynote address, presenting on landscape approaches and climate-smart agriculture. He discussed some of the tradeoffs and synergies, as well as knowledge gaps and future research needs. Throughout the conference, other presenters honed in on the importance of landscape approaches. Ralph Ashton, Director of the Australian Futures Project, cited evidence of numerous landscape initiatives with climate benefits generated through the Landscapes Initiative. A session devoted to moving towards a landscape approach resulted in a series of case studies on integrated approaches around the world.

The outcomes from the conference are expected to feed into the Rio+20 follow-up process, the upcoming Committee on World Food Security meeting, and on-going negotiations under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). There will also be a Climate Smart Agriculture Knowledge Platform launching so that practitioners can share knowledge. A climate-smart agriculture science conference will be held at University of California Davis in March 2013; the third Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change Conference will take place in South Africa, and a fourth is expected in Tonga.

For more on the outcomes of the conference in Hanoi, read the final Communique.

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