Visions for the future: scenarios help convert talk into plans

Photo: E. van de Grift

As a multidisciplinary research programme looking to enhance food security, CCAFS spans and incorporates a huge range of planners’ interests, experiences and evidence in climate change. The ‘scenario’ approach is a practical planning tool for addressing this complexity and finding common ground among disparate groups.

Scenarios are plausible descriptions of the future impacts of climate change on agriculture, developed collectively by people with different, and sometimes opposing, experiences and views. CCAFS has encouraged the use of scenarios as a way of reconciling differing views and interests, and creating a credible account of what might happen as the climate changes, and what might be done about it.

For example, food security depends on complex, interlinked relationships. Climate change affects food production, the stability of food supplies, the distribution of food, and affects how people access and use food. The interrelated groups in food networks – from smallholder farmers to huge agribusinesses and governments – are vast in scale and range, and often have widely divergent interests and experiences.

“Our explicit aim was to use scenarios to create a space for the development of shared insights, and to enable a strategic conversation about multi-dimensional, complex issues – in our case, the relationships, trade-offs and synergies between food security, environments and livelihoods in East Africa” CCAFS Scenarios Team

By the end of 2013, national and regional stakeholders in all five CCAFS regions were setting up processes to use CCAFS scenarios to develop adaptation and mitigation policies. For instance, in northern Vietnam, stakeholders used scenarios to develop investment proposals for climate-smart agriculture (CSA). And the Cambodian Climate Change Action Plan of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has incorporated scenarios as an internal tool for strategic planning, thanks to ministry members being involved in the scenario process. It has also dedicated its resources to Climate Smart Agriculture. 

Nearly 250 organizations – local to multinational – have helped develop regional scenarios. The scenarios now enjoy considerable support for their role in improving policy making and helping to shape regional and national priorities.

“The CCAFS Scenarios Programme is a well-developed tool kit that meets all the criteria for achieving its demanding targets.” Chris Carey, independent evaluator