Climate-smart agriculture the way to go

GIVEN that one in eight people are currently food-insecure, ensuring global food security over the coming decades will be essential. The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates that food production must increase by at least 60% to respond to the demand of the nine billion people that are expected to inhabit the planet by 2050.

BY JOEL TSVAKWI

Resultantly, climate change phenomena have captured the attention of international and regional environmentalists, inclusive of the farming communities in recent years.

Climate change bears adverse effects, mostly in Africa. Areas south of the Sahara and Zimbabwe have not been spared.
Climate change–related conditions contribute to a significant proportion of untold suffering and impoverishment.

There is compelling evidence that in developing countries, climate change has caused severe droughts, poverty and many other social and economic ills.

Rainfall variability, combined with global warming trends, is expected to render land increasingly marginal for agriculture and this is a menace to the economy and the livelihoods of the poor in view of Zimbabwe’s heavy dependence on rain-fed agriculture and inadequate climate-sensitive resources.

Climate change is defined by the Eco Schools Programme as a state of the climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alter the composition of the global atmosphere.

According to a 2012 review paper, Climate Change Impacts, Vulnerability and Adaptation in Zimbabwe, it is expected that farmers, who represent approximately 62% of the population, will bear disproportionate impacts due to their limited adaptive capacity.

Climate-induced water stress threatens to decrease the quantity and quality of drinking water in rural and urban areas, reduce the run-off necessary to sustain the country’s hydro-electric power supply and contribute to declining agricultural productivity.

Too much and too little rain have equally negative consequences. The increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events are likely to intensify the existing natural hazard burdens that may damage and altogether destroy infrastructure.

The increasing geographic range of diseases like malaria will also affect public health, especially among people living with HIV (PLWHIV).

Consequently, climate change poses a major threat to sustainable development and is likely to intensify the gender dimensions of vulnerability, especially among female-headed households. In Zimbabwe, application and relying on traditional farming methods, outside smart scientific methods, have led to largely muddled harvests and damage to the environment.

Today a new doctrine with regards to smart and sustainable farming and environment-friendly is emerging in the form of climate-smart agriculture.

According to FAO, Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) is agriculture that sustainably increases productivity, enhances resilience, reduces/removes Green House gases where possible.

In Zimbabwe, to curb the issue of food insecurity, government has been encouraging small scale farmers, especially in drought-prone areas, to plant drought-resistant small-grain-crops. This, however, was mainly void of smart scientific interventions, further eroding the anticipated benefits.

Benefits of CSA include empowering local communities to adapt, as well as reduce greenhouse emissions and provide information that ensures environmental-friendly farming methods.

Environmentalists believe that climate change effects should be a thing of the past as solutions were long mooted during the 4th Global Science Conference on Climate Smart Agriculture held in November last year in Johannesburg, South Africa.

This was a wake-up call for policy makers to review farming methods for their respective countries.

Africa, for the first time, under the custodianship of the NEPAD Agency, hosted the 4th CSA focusing on implementation and results.

The conference was hyped to take forward the initiative on research and science, which started in October 2010 with the aim to bring science to bear on practical advances in scaling up climate-smart agriculture.

The conference offered a platform to circumvent harsh climatic conditions and ensure smart agriculture, which leads to a clean environment and yields, which ultimately satisfy communities.

The three pillars of CSA are productivity, adaptation and mitigation with the aim of sustainably increasing agricultural productivity and incomes from crops, livestock and fish, without having a negative impact on the environment.

It is also envisioned that CSA should help reduce or remove greenhouse gas emissions so as to avoid deforestation from agriculture, manage soils and trees in ways that maximise their potential to act as carbon sinks.

Speaking ahead of the conference last year, NEPAD Agency Organising Committee chairperson, Ibrahim Mayaki, said the 4th Global CSA Conference was to focus on the growing attention to climate-agriculture nexus issues in national, regional and global policies and strategies.

“At global level, the SDGs and Paris Climate Agreement have explicitly highlighted the climate-agriculture and food systems nexus issues as key success factors in advancing the ultimate sustainable economic growth and inclusive development,” he said.

“The fundamental message is that climate smart agriculture is not a sector issue, nor can it be pursued successfully under one discipline. Individual country action successes are also not sustainable. With science as the primary entry point, the Conference will give equally important attention to policies, human and institutional capacity, financing and local innovations – in the context of how all these elements have to play together, expanding implementation capacity.”

In Zimbabwe, with regards to emerging science and innovations on the climate-agriculture nexus, issues focused on CSA innovations in defined agricultural landscapes and food systems, the ball has been set rolling.

Environmental Management Agency (Ema) is on a move of issuing farm diaries, titled Farmers Diary for Improved Sustainable Livelihoods 2017-2018.

This is meant to equip farmers with requisite technical expertise on sustainable environment management, resulting in smart agriculture.

Ema Director-General Aaron Chigona said the diary was meant to guide farmers and assist them in the sustainable management of natural resources for improved and sustained livelihoods.

“The diary contributes to participatory and sustainable land use systems through providing technical and professional reminders on critical conservation activities and priorities throughout the year,” he said.

Justice Zvaita, the programmes coordinator of the Zimbabwe Climate Change Coalition, said farmers need to be proactive.

“Our farmers should not always be in a responsive mood it is high time that necessary measures and expertise is given as mitigatory measures and this will see the protection of the environment,” he said.

“We cannot speak of guarding the command yield without talking of sustainable environment protection which is a pinnacle to all facets of the economy sustainable environmental management should be a life style as people need to identify themselves with the necessary conservative measures on a daily basis.”

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