Benefits of climate smart agriculture


TECHNOLOGY needs assessment and transfer established at the Fourteenth Conference of the Parties (COP 14) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to scale up technology transfer in countries was instrumental and remains noble. This became part of the global knowledge sharing and harmonisation for the ease of doing business and realising environmental sustainability.

Technology needs assessment can be defined as a set of country-driven, participatory activities leading to the identification, selected and implementation of environmentally sound technologies to decrease carbon dioxide (C02) emissions (mitigation) or to decrease vulnerability to climate change (adaptation) in developing countries. This means that the assessment was not done in isolation, but in consultation with concerned countries. Whether the concerned countries carried out consultations with their vulnerable and marginalised communities to establish their underlying concerns, necessities and needs is a topic for another day.

Stemming out from these noble pathways are the roles of innovative technologies designed to foster climate smart agriculture (CSA) and the use of information communication technologies (ICTs) for development. These were designed to ease the burden, especially for farmers and women who always endure hard labour in agricultural practices and household chores.

Due to the fact that agriculture is an emission-based community of practice, technology needs assessment was a welcome move for the achievement of sustainable agriculture. As a result of inherent inequalities in the sector, where women are overburdened with manual practices, while working for long hours and encountering risks of climate change impacts at the same time. In this regard, this meant that their plight was under spotlight.

Of course, some networked and privileged farmers have realised the achievements of utilising a wide range of ICTs in their agricultural business. In this view, ICTs became vital in information-sharing, buying and marketing their products. Notwithstanding these presumed developments, the majority of small-to-medium farmers are still engrossed in manual labour with less technologies and no machinery designed to ease their laborious situations.

From planting to harvesting, farmers in developing countries still practice hard labour ranging from planting, weeding, spraying, cultivating, harvesting and transportation of produce. Furthermore, these farmers always experience the brunt of post-harvest losses because of the lack of appropriate technologies and machinery.

When the idea of technology transfer was mooted, deliberated and passed, it was believed that the majority of small-to-medium scale farmers in developing countries would sufficiently benefit from innovative technologies introduced in their agricultural sector. The innovations ranged from improved seeds (smart seeds), use of organic fertiliser, improved tools and machinery, ranging from articulated fuel powered ploughs, smart planters, mobile phones, village information centres powered with computers and internet and strategies aimed at improving soil fertility, among others. They hoped these would help in increasing crop production, avoid post-harvest losses, improve soil fertility, and prevent soil erosion, water and moisture conservation as well as retaining manure in the soil. All these would help to establish a wide range of their target needs, both surface and underlying.

The use of farm friendly agricultural-based technologies would form a broad network of appropriate best practices designed to lessen the burden on both men and women differently. These would be able to appeal to local conditions and environments for the purposes of adaptation practices, improved yields, food and nutrition security, incomes and environmental sustainable outcomes. With due respect to initiators of these developments and vision, the designs remain a mirage or just a pipe dream in developing countries. The hopes of the majority of people and stakeholders to produce goods and services locally are fading. The reason is that the technological innovations, equipment and machinery do not come that cheap.

As these new technologies were designed according to their needs and local preferences, it would be possible to integrate their indigenous knowledge systems so that they become socially compliant and culturally specific. The idea would be to support and transform the natural ecosystems, manage wastes, build resilience and adaptive capacities in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Without these appropriate technologies, small-to-medium scale farmers will continue to remain vulnerable and overburdened. Apart from improving their food security, incomes and environment, these people need to change their situations, manage climate impacts and reduce gender gaps in agriculture. Labour-saving technologies still remain central, critical and beneficial, but sadly their lack of accessibility makes them a pipe dream, a mirage and a theory rather than a practice. Tools and equipment which improve efficiency and community livelihoods are still a preserve of the few and this is potentially scaring, pointing towards the tragedies of missing out on the realisation of sustainable development goals.

Women and children use forests for firewood thereby causing deforestation and land degradations, accelerating carbon emissions. By spending time in the forests, women would be eating into their productive time hence agricultural production remains compromised.

In many developing countries, women are still using hoes in land preparation. Digging is labour intensive and time consuming. Due to the lack of household deep wells and efficient piped water systems, women spend time travelling distances to fetch water for household use.

Many households still lack water-harvesting techniques, a vital component of climate smart agriculture, which helps to boost water security. Water that would have been harvested can be used for nutritional gardens efficiently for drip irrigation in the event that the drip and solar kits are available. All these equipment and technologies make the job lighter and manageable as well as being human and environmentally friendly.

In as much as these smart technologies and technology transfers have been written and talked about, their low-cost and sustainable nature as well as ease of doing business are yet to be realised by the majority. Yes technology transfers have taken place but mainly on paper and not in material terms. Remote and marginal communities remain marginalised, excluded and poorer yet development practitioners and relevant local authorities claim to have carried out sufficient technology needs analysis. Climate smart agriculture is not very smart after all.

 Peter Makwanya is a climate change communicator. He writes in his personal capacity and can be contacted on: