CGIAR Commits to Help 500 Million Farmers around the World Prevent Climate Change from Causing a Global Food Crisis

Climate-smart agriculture (CSA) encompasses a wide array of approaches to increase food security, help farmers adapt to changing climates, and reduce the carbon footprint of agriculture. Photo: G. Smith (CIAT)
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Release date

Tuesday, September 23, 2014
Leading agricultural research partnership pledges to bring “climate-smart” agricultural innovations to half a billion vulnerable farmers over 15 years

NEW YORK, USA (23 September 2014) — In a sign of rising concern that climate change could disrupt food production around the world, CGIAR—a global consortium involving 15 agricultural research centers, thousands of scientists, and hundreds of partners—announced today it will invest at least 60 percent of its budget in helping 500 million farmers adapt to more stressful growing conditions.

The announcement came at the UN Climate Summit 2014 and accompanied the launch of the Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture. The Alliance is a voluntary partnership of governments, researchers, civil society organizations, businesses, and farmer organizations committed to strengthening global food and nutrition security, improving resilience to climate change, and reducing the carbon footprint of agriculture. CGIAR is a founding member of the Alliance and a key partner in several of its related initiatives.

Through its Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), CGIAR has made climate change considerations an essential part of agricultural research at all of its centers and programs. This focus includes supporting work to maintain and boost production of vital food staples such as rice and maize.    

“What you are seeing with these announcements is the recognition that agriculture is critical to global progress. The Alliance has set a goal to reach at least half a billion farmers with climate-smart agricultural practices—a mark we need to reach if we are to avoid climate shocks to our food systems,” said Frank Rijsberman, Chief Executive Officer of CGIAR. “CGIAR can meet its goals by expanding the breadth of our research endeavors and breaking down communication barriers that block millions of smallholder farmers from taking advantage of existing innovations.”

Climate change is already reducing yields of some staple crops, introducing new pests and diseases, degrading soils, and threatening water supplies. Climate-smart agriculture (CSA) encompasses a wide array of technologies, farming practices and policies that sustainably increase crop and livestock productivity, help farmers adapt to changing climates, and reduce the carbon footprint of agriculture. 

“CCAFS offers a rich portfolio of experience across three continents,” said Bruce Campbell, Director of CCAFS. “Today we are prepared to massively expand the most impactful and promising climate-smart approaches, including mobile phone climate services and agricultural insurance that hedges bets on the weather.”

From climate-smart villages to mobile climate services

According to Campbell, for climate-smart agriculture to become the rule rather than the exception, key elements that need to be in place include: mechanisms to reach large numbers of farmers, information services that use mobile phones, radio, and other mass media; well-organized and broadly based farmer groups; policies that support secure land tenure; citizen/farmer participation in science; and government action to integrate climate considerations in all agricultural investment plans.

A number of recent examples highlight the potential for a rapid transformation of agriculture:

  • Climate-smart villages (CSVs): Dozens of CSVs in South Asia and Africa have tested new technologies that are now ready for widespread deployment.  In India, where overuse of water for agriculture has led to drastically decreased water levels, CSVs have piloted the use of lasers to level farm fields, which can reduce water usage by 30 percent.  Villagers work with scientists to assess problems and solutions, and have piloted a range of practices, from crop diversification, to a tool that assesses the precise amounts of fertilizer needed. Now, the Indian state of Maharashtra (population 112.3 million) plans to set up 1,000 climate smart villages.
  • Climate services via mobile phones: Mobile technology has the potential to deliver climate information to hundreds of millions of farmers.  Such information can help avert crop failures, guide wise investments, and deliver concrete services. Connectivity is especially important in countries whose farmer extension services (farmer education programs financed by governments) are weak.  Where extension services fail to reach remote farmers, mobile networks can.  In Nigeria, for example, 14 million farmers have registered with the government via their cell phones, a communications conduit now used to send coupons for seeds and fertilizers. In the future, they could provide a host of other services, from crop insurance to seasonal forecasts to early warnings about threats from pests and plant disease.
  • Weather-indexed insurance is another innovation that can protect crop farmers and livestock keepers. In India, with government support, 13 million small-scale farmers have obtained insurance with policies that pay out when weather conditions deteriorate, giving farmers the capability and confidence to take necessary risks in farming. 

Opportunity in Partnerships

CGIAR brings an abundance of knowledge and practical experience to the Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture, gained through decades of working in close partnership with national research systems.

As part of UN Climate Summit and the UN General Assembly events in New York this week, CGIAR is also hosting the Development Dialogues, bringing partners together to discuss the crucial role of agricultural research in achieving global consensus on climate change and moving the post-2015 development agenda forward.

“Smallholder farmers are natural resource managers on a grand scale, but most still lack the tools of climate-smart agriculture,” said CGIAR’s Rijsberman. “To reach half a billion farmers by 2030 we need to learn from both successes and failures, and greatly accelerate the adoption rate of new technologies. CGIAR is committed to doing all we can to help make this happen.”

CGIAR is a global partnership that unites organizations engaged in research for a food-secure future. CGIAR research is dedicated to reducing rural poverty, increasing food security, improving human health and nutrition, and ensuring more sustainable management of natural resources. It is carried out by the 15 centers that are members of the CGIAR Consortium in close collaboration with hundreds of partner organizations, including national and regional research institutes, civil society organizations, academia, and the private sector.

The CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) is a strategic partnership of CGIAR and Future Earth, led by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT). CCAFS brings together the world’s best researchers in agricultural science, development research, climate science and earth system science, to identify and address the most important interactions, synergies and tradeoffs between climate change, agriculture and food security.

The CGIAR Development Dialogues is an invitation only, high-level, one-day event intended to focus global attention on the vital role of agriculture, livestock, forestry, fisheries, landscapes, and food systems in achieving sustainable development. Linking key and innovative research in agriculture specifically to the emerging United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, the event will feature lively high-level panel debates among leading scientists, Heads of State, prominent private sector players, philanthropic organizations, and prestigious academic institutions. For further information and to watch the live webcast please visit: