How Smart is Climate Smart Agriculture?

Photo: CIAT/ Neil Parmer

Climate Smart Agriculture is one of those practices that simply sounds like a no brainer. Even without knowing what it means or entails, the name alludes to a savvy farmer who understands what she needs to do to in the face of a changing climate. For me, that’s a great image. I envision affordable drip irrigation systems, attentive communities in tune with their crops’ volatile needs, smart use of shading….

But what is it really? What form does this idea take on the ground?

I did a little searching, and think videos paint the most comprehensive picture. Here are a few:

  • This video can be your Climate Smart Agriculture “primer”.
  • Climate Smart Agriculture according to the FAO.
  • Climate-Adaptive Farming technology in the U.S. Midwest. It’s interesting how this technology is seen as relatively simple for U.S. standards, but is incredibly advanced compared to methods used in other places.
  • For example, take a look at WOTR’s Agro-Meteorology component of its Climate Change Adaptation project in India.
  • CafeDirect’s coffee climate adaptation  project in Peru seems very worthwhile. The more I learn about CafeDirect’s work, the more impressed I am by their partnerships and programmatic goals. If any readers are familiar with their work and want to share any thoughts, I’d be delighted to read them.

Personally, I think the term Climate Smart Agriculture might have a short life. Climate Smart Agriculture is simply smart agriculture, and smart agriculture is sustainable agriculture. That, as most of us know, has been a term and a goal for quite a long time. Agriculture that is sustainable– meaning, for one, that it can be sustained over time– must necessarily be climate smart; it must be “adaptation”.

If this seems like a rant on semantics, I hope it is not. We can call these practices, efforts, ideas whatever we want, but I think it is important to fragment our climate mitigation/adaptation community only when absolutely necessary. The moment a new “branch” shoots off in an innovative, great-sounding direction, we risk losing the much needed cohesiveness and core strength of our efforts. Before we know it, those working in climate adaptation will be off in their own isolated programs, pushing their own witty acronyms. Maybe it’s too late, since there are already more adaptation-related acronyms than I can keep track of!

Here’s to hoping that climate smart agriculture, sustainable agriculture, resilient agriculture, and whatever else might come our way, will have shared visions and goals for the future of agriculture. Ideally, those would be visions of human wellbeing, environmental stewardship, and timely innovation.

Photo credit: Daniela Uribe

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One thought on “How Smart is Climate Smart Agriculture?

  1. Pingback: Women in Climate Smart Agriculture | Climate Adaptation Cafe

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