Smallholder farmers are faced with food insecurity, poverty, land and water resource degradation, and climatic variability, therefore agriculture has to meet the challenge of achieving food security and respond to climate change. This begs the need to sustainably improve food production and increase resilience of farming systems and livelihoods.
Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) is an approach that brings together agricultural practices, policies, institutions and financing in the context of climate change. It focuses explicitly on the triple objectives of improving food security by sustainably increasing productivity and income, adapting to climate change and reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and enhancing removals where possible. CSA takes into consideration the diversity of social, economic, and environmental goals (i.e. sustainable development).
Designed by Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) the Mitigation of Climate Change in Agriculture Programme (MICCA) pilot project 2010-2014 aims to expand the evidence base and build CSA readiness in Africa which is considered to be one of the most vulnerable regions to climate change. The project objective was to assess how agricultural development programmes could bring co-benefits in term of climate change mitigation. Such programmes are the largest channels of achieving CSA at significant scale. The MICCA pilot project specifically aimed to; promote and exchange knowledge between farmers, extension agents and scientist with a view to identify and develop an integrated package of CSA practices and technologies and promote implementation; conduct scientific research to assess the GHG emission fluxes and mitigation potential of different crops, land uses and management practices and identifying synergies and trade-offs with food production and adaptation; and analyze the adoption barriers and benefits of CSA to permit the scaling up of CSA practices, increase their extension and support policy development and investments.
To achieve its objectives, the MICCA pilot projects were implemented with partners, World Agroforestry Centre (ICARAF) and East Africa Dairy Development Programme (EADD)in Kenya in an integrated crop livestock tree farming system. In a Cereal based upland farming system in Tanzania partners were ICARF and Hillside Conservation Agriculture Project (HICAP). The projects where chosen on the basis of high existing GHG emissions such as in Kenya where there is high animal density and as such digestive processes of animals resulting in increased methane emissions and also biomass burning in Tanzania. The projects followed steps; develop and implement integrated portfolios of CSA practices and technologies with farmers, test CSA outcomes on sustainable agricultural production, adaptation and mitigation; and assess barriers and opportunities for adoption and scaling-up of CSA.
The results showed that all farmers who participated in the project activities adopted at least one CSA practice highlighting that the main benefits are higher yield, greater farm income and increased food availability. This is an indication that smallholder farmers can be an effective part of the response to climate change and make a meaningful contribution to reducing GHG emissions. The project also helped in bringing sound up to date evidence into decision-making process which can help shape policies, plans and programmes that support CSA. Agroforestry and tree planting were the highest adopted practices in both countries however, other few practices were not adopted at scale due to a number of limitations. These limitations includes; lack of land tenure, poor access to credits and also gender inequalities.
To ensure a sustainable adoption of the practices, the project noted that farmers need to receive immediate and long term benefits. In order to increase in the range of available CSA practices, and their adoption at the farm level to a national level, the MICCA pilot project followed the bottom-up approach. This means that the beginning was at the pilot projects with the smallholder farmers, extended to large programmes carried out by development and research partners and then reached to stakeholders at the national level. The project recommended the involvement of local decision makers in addressing barriers to implementation and adoption of the CSA practices.The MICCA pilot project, concluded that CSA planning and implementation will be successful if the CSA practices are tailored to the specific characteristics of the local farming systems
Lessons for Namibia
Generally, climate in Namibia is variable with increasing variability in temperature and rainfall patterns. With most of the rural communities depended on agriculture for food security and income this has increase vulnerability to climate change. The effects of climate change have led to the loss of livestock and low yield production within the farmers. With the findings of the MICCA pilot projects in Kenya and Tanzania, agroforestry practices and conservational agriculture will help mitigate and increase resilience to climate change in Namibia. Agro-silvopastural ( integration of crops, trees and livestock), will enable farmers to adapt to climate change. This allows soil fertility restoration through litter and nitrogen fixing trees, increase income and produce variety of products.