Country-level readiness for climate change in agriculture: lessons learned point way forward

Agricultural policies that promote food security and mitigation of climate change require good governance, multiple objectives, sound strategy, and national monitoring and reporting frameworks. Photo: N. Palmer (CIAT)

Climate change readiness study suggests how countries can develop and implement effective climate change policies in the agriculture sector.  

Countries must be ready to develop and implement effective policy to meet the challenges of climate change adaptation and mitigation in the agricultural sector.  This includes engaging relevant stakeholders, creating the knowledge base for climate-smart technologies, developing needed institutions, and estimating likely costs.

Donor support for “climate readiness” in the forestry sector is helping countries prepare Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) programs. “Climate readiness in smallholder agricultural systems: Lessons learned from REDD+”, a new report by Monika Zurek, Charlotte Streck, Stephanie Roe and Franziska Haupt, examines the lessons learned from REDD+ readiness processes to inform the agriculture sector. 

Conducted by Climate Focus in cooperation with the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the CCAFS Flagship Program on Low-Emissions Agriculture, the study asks whether a readiness process would be useful in agriculture, how it could be structured and implemented, and if overlaps and synergies in the REDD+ readiness or other climate-readiness processes could be incorporated.

Country-focused readiness processes are most successful

The short answer is that readiness programs indeed help countries prepare more quickly. The authors found that a coordinated, internationally supported readiness process helped create political momentum, develop country-specific strategies and capacity, coordinate donors, and structure stakeholder engagement, discussion and understanding. The forestry experience showed though that defining when countries are “ready” is best done in an incremental and context-specific way and that financing readiness can be expensive and complex, with high transactions costs, unless done in a differentiated way among countries.

Agriculture will need a different approach to readiness than REDD+, says Dr. Monika Zurek of Climate Focus, lead author of the study. Agricultural readiness should be country-, rather than donor-led. Instead of focusing solely on mitigation, it will need to account for adaptation priorities and food security goals, multiple development pathways for achieving mitigation, and the need for broad institutional engagement in each country.

Readiness processes add long-term value

Readiness processes can be a mechanism for donors and countries to coordinate investment in governance, national strategies, and monitoring, reporting, and verification (MRV). National strategies in the agriculture and climate change sectors will need to acknowledge the multiple objectives of agriculture under climate change, for example by enabling MRV systems to link to climate vulnerability and food security monitoring. The study shows that REDD+ readiness process established a foundation for MRV and governance that agriculture can now build on.

I believe that there is a lot the agriculture sector can learn from the REDD+ readiness process. Our hope, when we decided to commission this study, was to find a series of transferable key lessons in it, says Alex De Pinto, Senior Scientist at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). The recommendations outlined in the paper provide an excellent guiding framework and structure for stakeholders involved in implementing mitigation techniques and methods within agriculture.

Concrete recommendations for agricultural readiness criteria

Concrete recommendations for agricultural readiness

By investing in countries’ readiness for climate change in agriculture now, we will likely achieve practical outcomes sooner than if we depend solely on current efforts toward multilateral agreements. The urgency for action suggests that developing the vision and activities needed for climate readiness in each country should be a priority.  This far-sighted study provides a first step in that direction.

Download the study: Climate readiness in smallholder agricultural systems: Lessons learned from REDD+