Article by Gabriel Adukpo,Agriculturist /Freelancer
CLIMATE refers to the weather conditions prevailing in an area in general or over a long period.Climate keeps on changing as documented in the history of humankind. However, the term climate change became prominent when changes in global climate patterns reached a higher scale from the mid to late 20th century onwards. This phenomenon is attributed largely to increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide produced by the use of fossil fuels.
Climate change affects all aspects of human life. However, agriculture is highly vulnerable to climate change more than any other economic sector as the former relies directly on the natural resource base. For example, agriculture uses about 70 percent of global fresh water and40 percent of global land area. These natural resources become depleted over time thus making agriculture and food systems unsustainable.
Vulnerable as it is to climate change, agriculture itself contributes in no small measure to the change. Crops and livestock production are substantial sources of greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation.
Some of the effects and manifestations of climate change are:Higher temperatures – global warming
Decrease in amount of rainfall,Increasing frequency in weather related disasters such as floods, droughts, storms etc ,Rising sea levels,Shifts in cropping seasons ,Increased pest and disease burden, and
Heat-induced stress in livestock.
These effects impact heavily on crop and livestock yields, increases in prices of major food items, declining fish catches, land degradation and human migration. Indeed the lives and livelihoods of smallholder farmers are adversely affected by climate change. It must be noted that the impacts on stakeholders are different depending on their positions in the agricultural value chain.
What is at stake for the whole of humanity is food security. This is aggravated by the steady growth in global population. It is projected that the world population will increase from 7.3 billion (2015 figure) to 8.5 billion by 2030 and 9.7 billion by 2050.
The challenge therefore, is how to minimize agriculture’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions while increasing productivity in a sustainable way. Various approaches are being developed to the challenge of climate change. One of these is climate-smart agriculture.
Climate-smart agriculture is a concept developed in 2009 at the initiative of UN Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Bank. The three focus areas of climate-smart agriculture are: i. increasing farm productivity and incomes in environmentally and socially sustainable manner, enable farmers to adapt and build resilience to climate change, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions while increasing soil carbon storage.
In order to achieve the aims of climate-smart agriculture, stakeholders need to invest in three important areas; sustainable land and water management practices, Climate risk management and transformation of production practices.
Specifically, these areas include: conservation agriculture, integrated soil fertility management, agroforestry, integrated livestock management, improved water management, development of drought resistant crop varieties, information and advisory systems using radio and mobile phones to disseminate weather forecasts and market prices, index-based crop and livestock insurance, shift to other crops and breeds, diversification of production and irrigation, among others.
The climate-smart approach is a blend of well-known practices and emerging ones, especially in risk management. A few cases of success stories in the SPORE magazine can illustrate some aspects of this approach.
Research in West Africa has shown that cocoa trees grown in an agroforestry environment can triple cocoa bean yields and double the longevity of the cocoa tree. The trees provide shade for the cocoa and intercept rainfall while the litter of leaf droppings improve soil fertility and reduce greenhouse gas emission.
Women in northern Cameroon were reported to be using innovative cultivation practices to manage changing conditions. They got involved in agroforestry, beekeeping, growing climate-resilient crop like soyabean and mushroom which is water efficient.
Ghanaian farmers are learning how to achieve the quantity and quality demanded by buyers in the World Food Programme. To support this, farmers are receiving information about weather, markets and agricultural practices through a variety of Information Communication Technologies (ICTs), thus preparing them for business in the face of climate change.
Mitigating climate change in agriculture should be seen as an opportunity to go back to time-tested practices rather than a threat to food security. Most of the sustainable land and water management practices are best demonstrated on small fields. Farmers and extension workers should use backyards to demonstrate intercropping, mulching, composting and others in the Planting for Food and Jobs Programme.
What we can do
Awareness creation, dialogue and interaction among all stakeholders would help build climate resilience. We should take advantage of research and ICT to implement climate-smart agriculture. We can learn a lot from a conservation agriculture centre in Atwima Nwabiagya District in Ashanti where no-till is practiced.
The Sustainable Development Goal of zero hunger by 2030 cannot be achieved if we do not produce more with less in same area, enhance resilience to climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Climate-smart agriculture holds the key to attaining food security and job creation.