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What’s needed to safeguard agriculture under climate change?

A Vietnamese farmer harvests improved cassava varieties. Investments in agricultural development are critical for climate resilience, and for implementing country climate change plans. Photo: G. Smith (CIAT)
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Dec 9, 2015


Vanessa Meadu and Dhanush Dinesh (CCAFS Coordinating Unit)

Report back from Global Landscapes Forum side event “From farmer’s fields to landscapes: Food security in a new climate regime?”

The challenge of sustaining food security under a changing climate was high on the agenda at this year’s UN Climate Change talks (COP21) in Paris. How will a new climate change regime deliver opportunities for farmers to adapt to climate impacts while reducing emissions? This was the central question of a side event on 6 December at the Global Landscapes Forum.

The event featured panels on three critical topics: How country climate change plans (aka Intended Nationally Determined Contributions or INDCs) address food security, agriculture and land use; a high-level discussion on commitments to food security in a climate-constrained world; and a discussion on gender and youth in the context of INDCs and food security.

To open the event, Marion Guillou President of Agreenium and CGIAR Consortium Board Member asked some hard questions about what is needed for countries to successfully implement the INDCs, such as availability of sufficient financing and technical assistance, adequate policies and partnerships, and including gender and youth.

The presentations and discussions that followed revealed a range of insights from a head of state (Thomas Esang Remengesau, Jr, President of Palau); a youth leader (Sithembile Ndema Mwamakamba, FANRPAN); policy makers (Timothy Groser, Minister of Trade, New Zealand; Giovanna Valverde, Climate Change office, Ministry of Foreign Relations, Costa Rica); CEOs (Sunny Verghese of Olam and John A. Bryant of the Kellogg Company); and development partners (Dr Naoko Ishii, CEO and Chairperson, Global Environment Facility; Martin Frick, Director of Climate, Energy and Tenure Division (NRC), UNFAO; Ana Paula Tavares, President, Rainforest Alliance; Philippe Leveque, Executive Director, CARE France); and a farmer leader (Theo de Jager, President, Pan African Farmers' Organisation).

What is the estimated finance needed for realizing adaptation and mitigation actions outlined in the INDCs and how can we ensure that the farmers who need it the most get access to finance?

The discussions shed light on the need for considerable finance for implementing agricultural adaptation and mitigation actions by Least Developed Countries (LDCs). CCAFS estimates that finance on the order of USD 3 billion annually for adaptation and 2 billion annually for mitigation is needed by LDCs.  However, this level of finance is not beyond the reach of the international community. As Martin Frick, from the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) mentioned, these needs can be matched by the Green Climate Fund. In addition, countries, the private sector, and other international financial mechanisms are investing in agriculture, and the focus should be on making these investments climate-smart.

View side event photos

In terms of technical assistance, what is needed for countries and farmers to get going? How can CGIAR research be aligned with the needs of countries and farmers in implementing their INDCs?

There is a need for technology-driven solutions as well as approaches based on indigenous knowledge. However, these innovations need to reach farmers on the ground and also be accompanied by capacity enhancement efforts. Philippe Lévêque of CARE France, mentioned his worry that many INDCs were developed quickly, without much expertise and consultation. It will be important for countries to carefully work out the fine details in order to begin planning and implementation.

In addressing food security, the focus of technical assistance should be beyond crops, to also include fisheries, livestock, aquaculture, and other sectors. The CGIAR and its partners including CTA, CDKN, FANRPAN, and other agencies can play a key role in the transition of the agriculture sector, which is the need of the hour.

What policies and partnerships are needed to support implementation and to achieve scale?

The side event brought together key partners in one room, representing the range of actors who need to support implementation and achieve scale. These include Governments, private sector, farmer organizations, and researchers.

Farmers need to be active players in any initiatives. According to Theo de Jager of PAFO, they are not only the most vulnerable to climate change impact, but they can also do the most to tackle it.

Panelists agreed that the private sector has the power to be transformed and to transform itself. Sunny Verghese of Olam stated “business can't wait for government regulations: we need to act now on safeguarding agriculture under climate change,” but added that it is important that policies eventually support business investments in sustainability.

Together, these stakeholders have a wide range of existing networks, reaching millions of farmers. The focus should be on integrating climate action in existing efforts, sound implementation, and efforts to scale up.

Several large-scale initiatives were mentioned. John Bryant explained how Kelloggs is working to reduce the company’s climate footprint and also helping to make supply chains carbon neutral. For example they are by working with the International Rice Research Institute on reducing the climate footprint of rice production through a technique known as alternate wetting and drying.

Meanwhile the Ana Tavares, President of the Rainforest Alliance described their work with 1.2 million farmers to implement sustainable agriculture & forestry, in order to deliver planet-friendly food products.

How do we make sure gender and youth issues are not addressed as just lip service?

While gender receives attention in INDCs, only 57 Parties have mentioned it. Gender references are confined mostly to impacts of climate change with less emphasis on supporting women to actively address and participate in adaptation and mitigation actions. Only 10 Parties refer to the role of women in agriculture. This needs to change, and gender and youth issues need to be at the centre of INDC implementation. Global climate funds are taking stronger approaches to gender equality and gender-sensitive approaches, but global institutions still fall short of the gender-transformative approach needed.

According to Sithembile Ndema Mwamakamba, FANRPAN “what's most important is to create an environment that empowers youth and women to be active changemakers.” Sophia Huyer, who leads Gender and Social Inclusion research for CCAFS, said we need more examples of solutions that work for women to tackle climate change in agriculture.

What other actions are necessary?

The power of individuals and consumption choices has come up in today’s discussions, and this needs to be a focus in driving action. Provision of market access and addressing poverty is also critical.

Are the INDCs actually transformational or just more of the same?

While we recognize the need for transformational changes, there is the possibility for changes to be really transformational. But, this needs to happen as we move forward, as we define actions and begin implementation

The side event was co-organised The CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS); the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN), and the Food, Agriculture, Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN), Pricewaterhouse Cooper (PwC).

Read more:

Communiqué with Videos: Report from COP21: Food security-climate change nexus gains momentum | CTA News (published 9 December)