A recently published article in Regional Environmental Change analyses data from 600 house-holds in West Africa and reveals much about the linkages between agricultural adaptation strategies and food security. This was reported by researchers from CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) on their website in September 2015.
A research team examined and assessed the food security impact of adaptation strategies such as crop diversification, soil and water conservation, the use of improved crop varieties and of fertilizers, as well as the practice of keeping trees and small ruminants on farms. The researchers also looked at the various farm household characteristics and their productivity by asking questions about who is practising what and what are the characteristics of the households engaging in various climate-smart practices. The research was conducted in three research sites of the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS): Lawra-Jirapa in Ghana, Kaffrine in Senegal and Yatenga in Burkina Faso.
Benefits from ‘climate-smart’ farm practices vary, engagement in the local market is vital
The findings reveal that although ‘climate-smart’ farming practices do have positive impacts and are starting to spread in West Africa, their benefits are also dependent on land productivity and land size. The data also show that farmers who are more oriented and engaged in selling products at the market were also more food secure year-round. The findings indicate that what is ‘climate-smart’ for one farmer is not necessarily the right climate adaptation solution for another.
According to the scientists, it is vital to increase engagement in the local market and to intensify farm production as well as the use of climate-smart practices. Ideally, farmers should implement several climate-smart practices in parallel, as some practices feed off each other, for example mixing livestock and crops where manure is used as fertilizer and specific crop residues provide nutritious fodder.
The results also suggest that it might be more helpful to examine adaptation pathways for the differ-ent types of households, and what those pathways might include, more so than getting farmers to adopt specific climate-smart technologies. A pathway would be more holistic in its intervention and cater to the various needs and challenges of that specific farm. Understanding households’ coping strategies and mechanisms as well as their agricultural and livelihood decision-making processes is key to providing them with tailored sets of adaptation strategies or pathways.
It is clear that there are no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solutions. For different farmers, different adaptation strategies will be ‘climate-smart’.
For farmers to successfully adapt, they need better access to information on various climate-smart opportunities, supported by trainings to access, test and modify different options so that they work in that specific context. Improved and accessible climate information, for example weather updates and forecasts relevant to their local area, is also key.
Download article:Linking agricultural adaptation strategies, food security and vulnerability: evidence from West Africa. Douxchamps S. et al. (limited access)