A farmer at work in a maize field in India.
Photo: Michelle DeFreese/CIMMYT


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CSA – today, any programme addressing the future viability of agriculture that does not contain this acronym for “Climate-Smart Agriculture” would be quite inconceivable. But what exactly does the term refer to, and in what way does the concept differ from that of sustainable agriculture? Showing examples from Colombia, Niger and India, our author demonstrates what CSA means in practice and explains why the term “agriculture” does not do justice to the broader framing of the context.

Hundreds of local and international organisations have adopted the concept of Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA). However, as with many newly-proposed concepts, there are different interpretations and contestations. CSA is by no means perfect for what it needs to cover in the urgent and complex area of climate action in agriculture and food systems, but it is a useful shorthand.

Many of us interpret CSA as an approach rather than as a concrete practice or technology. As Leslie Lipper and co-authors write in Nature Climate Change, “CSA is an approach for transforming and reorienting agricultural systems to support food security under the new realities of climate change”. There are many other terms related to agricultural development, but CSA is novel in its focus on a range of climate actions. The concept was conceived by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in 2010 in response to the need to transform agricultural development to the challenges of climate change.

Realising a food secure world has always been difficult, but it will become even more challenging under a changing climate.

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