Integrating institutional enabling factors can provide a new avenue to scaling up climate-smart agriculture

Out of 137 publications analyzed using an institutional analysis framework, 55.5% make specific reference to the institutional dimension of climate-smart agriculture. Photo: IITA

New study explores whether and how institutional perspectives are reflected in the global literature on climate-smart agriculture.

Published recently in the scientific journal Sustainability, the study entitled Institutional Perspectives of Climate-Smart Agriculture: A Systematic Literature Review explored to what extent institutional factors are addressed in peer-reviewed literature on climate-smart agriculture (CSA) at the global scale.

The authors employed a systematic literature review methodology and institutional analysis framework to synthesize how institutional dimensions were explored in 137 peer-reviewed CSA publications.

The study highlights that interest in institutional aspects of CSA has increased, particularly around knowledge infrastructure, market structure, and hard institutional aspects. However, other aspects, such as the engagement of the private sector in agricultural development, have gotten less attention.

Institutional dimensions reflected in the CSA literature. Source: Totin et al. 2018.

The study also found that while the CSA concept encompasses three pillars (productivity, adaptation, and mitigation), the literature has hardly addressed these pillars in an integrated way. The development status of study sites also appears to influence which pillars are promoted. For instance, in developed countries, more research efforts were underway to support the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. On the other hand, developing countries focused more on increasing crop productivity and improving resilience to climate change. These differences highlighting the context-specific nature of CSA.

Explaining the complexity of the institutional context

With a growing world population, the response to the increasing demand for food is becoming more and more of a global concern. According to established scenarios, intensifying croplands with available CSA technologies is likely to be a more promising option for meeting the demand for food, than clearing a greater area of land to expand production areas.

But technology-oriented interventions alone may not be enough to achieve sustainable agricultural transformation, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa. This is because of the complexity of the institutional context within which the actors of the agricultural system operate. Farming systems also comprise a range of institutional aspects, including policy, market, and political components.

The study's authors argue that transferring agricultural technologies to the end-users without taking into account their local context may not work. The findings reveal that CSA suffers from:

  • Limited attention to contextual and cultural factors
  • Relatively poor public-private partnership to support the scaling of the CSA options, especially in the context of Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Poor documentation of the synergies and trade-offs among the three pillars of CSA
  • Poor articulation of physical infrastructures such as roads and rural communication

The study concludes that promoting CSA technologies by building both on technology packages and enabling institutional contexts could provide potential opportunities for effective scaling of CSA options.

Download the study: Institutional Perspectives of Climate-Smart Agriculture: A Systematic Literature Review

The study's authors acknowledge the CGIAR Fund Council, ACIAR (Australia), European Union, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), New Zealand, The Netherlands, Switzerland, UK, and Thailand for funding to the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).

This work was also carried out under the Adaptation at Scale in Semi-Arid Regions (ASSAR) consortium. ASSAR is one of four consortia under the Collaborative Adaptation Research Initiative in Africa and Asia (CARIAA), with financial support from the UK Government’s Department for International Development (DFID), and the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Ottawa, Canada.

The views expressed in this work are those of the creators and do not necessarily represent those of the UK Government’s Department for International Development, the International Development Research Centre, Canada or its Board of Governors.

The authors thank Beda Adza Maretha and Essegbemon Akpo for providing critical comments and editorial assistance.

Dansira Dembele is the Communications Officer at CCAFS West Africa. Robert Zougmore is the CCAFS West Africa Regional Program Leader. Alcade C. Segnon is a Research Scholar at ICRISAT.