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Climate-Smart Smallholder Products: a new product label?

Climate-Smart Smallholder Products: a new product label? Photo: N. Palmer (CIAT)
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Written by Jeff Brez, IFAD. This post has also been published on the Agricultureday blog.

At Agriculture and Rural Development Day (ARDD) at COP 17 in Durban, IFAD teamed up with Cafédirect and Fairtrade Africa to offer a learning event on “Getting Climate-Smart Smallholder Products to Market.” The case study was based on an IFAD public private partnership in São Tomé and Principe with the Government, communities, Cafédirect and other private sector companies. Read more about the project, the objectives of the event, the moderator and speakers. The two main questions posed by moderator extraordinaire Matthew Wyatt of DFID, were simple. Can smallholders offer climate-smart products? Will consumers pay for them? He led a lively and focused discussion – thanks Matthew!

Cafédirect’s Wolfgang Weinmann said, “Access for smallholder farmers to added-value markets like climate-smart and ethical products clearly is the way forward. Plus, of course delivering high quality and absolute traceability. Our partnership with IFAD has been fantastic and allowed us to ensure, in a relatively short time span of 2 years, a great product for the UK market that delivers tangible economic, social and environmental impact for the São Tomé and Principe smallholder cocoa farmers.”

There was consensus that there is potential for smallholders to benefit from a “climate-smart” label , because:

  1. Smallholders are natural providers of climate-smart products
  2. Niche market opportunities such as organics and Fairtrade are bringing premiums to smallholders in São Tomé and Principe, where cocoa exports have increased ten-fold since 2004 through public-private partnerships
  3. While climate smart smallholder agriculture is an undefined concept for consumers, they may be willing to pay more for a “climate smart” product if they better understand the full benefits to farmers , the environment and to them as well

Scaling up of a “climate smart concept ” would depend on:

  1. Providing smallholders with knowledge sharing, technical support, and access to finance and markets
  2. Developing metrics to demonstrate to consumers the benefits that accrue to farmers and to environment
  3. Development and positioning of a “climate smart” label under either an existing product label or on its own

Nokutula Mhene of Fairtrade Africa was cautiously optimistic, “The role of consumers in influencing agricultural practices and policies is often overlooked. The growth of Fairtrade over the past decades is largely attributed to consumer support. Climate smart goods should have a place in the market but need to be integrated into already existing labelling initiatives.”

Carlos Seré, of IFAD said, “In addition to generating new technologies, increasing productivity and looking for ways to save labour to support climate-smart smallholder agriculture, climate-smart practices can be enabled by replacing inputs with knowledge – understanding the biology better and tweaking it. This implies a very robust research agenda and an equally ambitious knowledge sharing component. Shifting from existing systems to climate-smart systems – for example shifting to shade grown systems – can take years to achieve. Smallholders need support during the transition periods. And of course, we can never forget about the incentives for the producers: they have to be there.”

Learn more about how IFAD supported activities are benefiting smallholders and poor rural people in São Tomé and Principe.

Jeff Brez is an Environment and Climate Knowledge and Advocacy Manager at the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). This story was originally published on the IFAD social reporting blog.