Climate-Smart Government for Climate-Smart Agriculture
Smart governments have tools to meet their citizens’ needs by promoting the widespread adoption of climate-smart agriculture. Farmers need to understand which climate-smart approaches will work. Governments can support crucial research efforts. Farmers need to hear about the new techniques and approaches. Governments can improve methods of spreading the word. Farmers need evidence that new approaches will work for them. Governments can support demonstrations. Markets need infrastructure and clear signals. Governments can invest in infrastructure and can provide signals to businesses about the profitability of the climate-smart agriculture industry. Government policymaking and implementation can make a sizeable difference.
As members of the Rutgers University Feed the Future Policy Research Consortium, our research group began investigating how governments might influence the adoption of climate-smart agriculture in 2015. We applied political will and public will research approaches to the idea of broad social change. We found that important stakeholders often see the “ripe” problems that climate change is creating for agriculture. We also identified important factors for increasing adoption of climate-smart agriculture approaches in both Senegal and Uganda.
Specific, Smart Government Activities
These two countries in sub-Saharan Africa provide specific examples that inform broader thinking about climate-smart agriculture. With significant contributions from our in-country partners, we found farmers and governments experiencing success with:
- Climate-adapted practices that include drought- and flood-resistant seeds, agroforestry and integrated crop systems, and use of organic fertilizers.
- Improved water use through drip and other irrigation, improved water storage infrastructure, linkages to weather forecasting and use of water retention basins.
- Mechanisms for showing success and spreading information, such as demonstration plots, use of community radio and agricultural extension service activities.
- Approaches, such as the Climate-Smart Village in Daga-Birame, Senegal, that link the previous observations in a holistic way.
Agricultural innovation requires infrastructure. To that end, we see opportunities for governments to contribute to:
- Research infrastructure, such as scientific research institutes and stations.
- Agricultural infrastructure, such as input distribution networks and storage facilities.
- Communication networks, such as cellphone infrastructure and weather broadcasting.
- Basic infrastructure in areas such as transportation (roads, rail, etc.) and electricity.
- Market-specific infrastructure that provides information about prices and means of making transactions.
Agriculture is also a business. Governments can harness the power of markets to speed the adoption of climate-smart agriculture practices. We see opportunities for governments to help create market conditions and develop public-private partnerships in which agribusiness entrepreneurs can:
- Distribute necessary equipment and inputs, such as adapted seeds and organic fertilizers.
- Engage in information dissemination and demonstration activities.
- Provide financing for necessary investments.
The international research community has found that the need to adapt to climate change is becoming more urgent. People need to eat, so the effects of climate change on agriculture are of the utmost importance. Given the balance of assets and vulnerabilities in low-income countries, the need for agriculture to adapt takes on added urgency. Meeting a challenge this large will require a response of appropriate scale. While interest in the topic is increasing, governments need to act. Widespread adoption of climate-smart agriculture will require concerted efforts, and policy actions are a crucial component.
Adaptation will also require resources. Some of the options for governments are relatively cheap, including the borrowing of policies that work. However, other actions will be expensive. Supporting and building markets can create efficiencies, but investment is essential. Donors have opportunities to fill these gaps through their own policymaking.
Our research is part of quickly growing efforts to understand how agriculture might adapt to climate change. Some solutions are likely to be specific to geographies, so continued research is vital. Scientific research, such as the work being done by the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Sustainable Intensification at Kansas State University, is certainly important. We also need to continue efforts on the social science and policy sides. Widespread social change will not happen on its own. Changing beliefs and attitudes is difficult, but policymakers can create incentives to nudge behavior in directions that will save lives.
Blog post by:
Dr. Eric Raile, Montana State University, Bozeman, Montana, USA
Dr. Samba Mbaye, Gaston Berger University, Saint-Louis, Senegal
Dr. Adama Sarr, Center for Ecological Monitoring, Dakar, Senegal
Dr. Diaminatou Sanogo, National Center for Forestry Research, Dakar, Senegal
Dr. Jackline Bonabana-Wabbi, Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda
Julian Kirinya, Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda