Climate-smart agriculture (CSA) (or climate resilient agriculture) is an integrated approach to managing land to help adapt agricultural methods, livestock and crops to the effects of climate change and, where possible, counteract it by reducing greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, while taking into account the growing world population to ensure food security. The emphasis is not simply on carbon farming or sustainable agriculture, but also on increasing agricultural productivity.
CSA has three pillars: increasing agricultural productivity and incomes; adapting and building resilience to climate change; and reducing or removing greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture. There are different actions listed to counter the future challenges for crops and plants. For example, with regard to rising temperatures and heat stress, CSA recommends the production of heat tolerant crop varieties, mulching, water management, shade house, boundary trees, carbon sequestration, and appropriate housing and spacing for cattle. CSA seeks to stabilize crop production while mitigating the adverse impacts of climate change while maximizing food security.
There are attempts to mainstream CSA into core government policies, expenditures and planning frameworks. In order for CSA policies to be effective, they must be able to contribute to broader economic growth, the sustainable development goals and poverty reduction. They must also be integrated with disaster risk management strategies, actions, and social safety net programmes.
CSA has three components: increasing agricultural productivity and incomes; adapting and building resilience to climate change; and reducing or removing greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture.
Carbon farming is one of the components of climate-smart agriculture and aims at reducing or removing greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture. .
Carbon farming is a name for a variety of agricultural methods aimed at sequestering atmospheric carbon into the soil and in crop roots, wood and leaves. The aim of carbon farming is to increase the rate at which carbon is sequestered into soil and plant material with the goal of creating a net loss of carbon from the atmosphere. Increasing a soil's organic matter content can aid plant growth, increase total carbon content, improve soil water retention capacity and reduce fertilizer use. Carbon farming is one component of climate-smart agriculture.Carbon emission reduction methods in agriculture can be grouped into two categories: reducing and displacing emissions and enhancing carbon sequestration. Reductions include increasing the efficiency of farm operations (e.g. more fuel-efficient equipment) and interrupting the natural carbon cycle.
See also: Climate change and gender
Men, women, boys, and girls are affected by climate change in different ways. To increase the effectiveness and sustainability of CSA interventions, they must be designed to address gender inequalities and discriminations against people at risk. Gender gap in agriculture implies that men and women farmers have varying access to resources to prepare for and respond to climate change. Women farmers are more prone to climate risk than men are. It has been reported that in developing countries, women have less access compared to men to productive resources, financial capital, and advisory services. They often tend to be excluded from decision making which may impact on their adoption of technologies and practices that could help them adapt to climatic conditions. A gender-responsive approach to CSA tries to identify and address the diverse constraints faced by men and women and recognizes their specific capabilities. Climate-smart agriculture presents opportunities for women in agriculture to engage in sustainable production. There is need to level the field and CSA is an opportunity for women in agriculture to engage more productively.
Strategies and methods for CSA should be specific to the local contexts where they are employed. They should include capacity-building for participants in order to offset the higher costs of implementation.
CSA ... is in line with FAO’s vision for Sustainable Food and Agriculture and supports FAO’s goal to make agriculture, forestry and fisheries more productive and more sustainable.
FAO has identified several tools for countries and individuals to assess, monitor and evaluate integral parts of CSA planning and implementation:
The EU has promoted development of climate-smart agriculture and forestry practices as part of the EU Green Deal Policy. Contradictions surrounding practical value of CSA among consumers and suppliers may be the reason why the EU is lagging here compared to other areas of the world. A critical assessment of progress was carried out using different multi-criteria indices covering socio-economic, technical and environmental factors. The results indicated that the most advanced CSA countries within the EU are Austria, Denmark and the Netherlands while Cyprus, Greece and Portugal have the lowest levels of CSA penetration. Key factors included labor productivity, female ownership of farmland, level of education, degree of poverty and social exclusion, energy consumption/efficiency and biomass/crop productivity.
The Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate (AIM for Climate/AIM4C) is a 5-year initiative to 2025, organized jointly by the UN, US and UAE. The objective is to rally around climate-smart agriculture and food system innovations. It has attracted some 500 government and non-government organizations around the world and about 10 billion USD from governments and 3 billion USD from other sources. The initiative was introduced during COP-26 in Glasgow.
The CGIAR as part of the AIM4C summit in May 2023 called for a number of actions:
1. Integration of initiatives from the partner organizations
2. Enabling innovative financing
3. Production of radical policy and governance reform based on evidence
4. Promotion of project monitoring, evaluation, and learning
Several actors are involved in creating pathways towards net-zero emissions in global food systems.
Four areas of focus relate to:
1. lowered GHG-emission practices by increasing production efficiency
2. increased sequestration of carbon in croplands and grasslands
3. shifting of human diets away from livestock protein
4. taking on "new-horizon" technologies within the food systems
Livestock production (beef, pork, chicken, sheep and milk) alone accounts for 60% of total global food system GHG emissions. Rice, maize and wheat stand for 25% of the global emissions from food systems.
The greatest concern with CSA is that no universally acceptable standard exists against which those who call themselves "climate-smart" are actually acting climate smart. Until those certifications are created and met, skeptics are concerned that big businesses will just continue to use the name to ‘greenwash’ their organizations—or provide a false sense of environmental stewardship. CSA can be seen as a meaningless label that is applicable to virtually anything, and this is deliberate as it is meant to conceal the social, political and environmental implications of the different technology choices.
In 2014 The Guardian reported that climate-smart agriculture had been criticised as a form of greenwashing.