Climate-smart practices to reduce risk in smallholder agriculture

Published on

July 13, 2016

New guest blog from Farming First uses two case studies from their recently released climate smart video and case study series to explain how climate smart agriculture practices enable smallholders to more effectively and reliably use finance for agriculture production. 

Guest blog by Farming First | A global coalition for sustainable agriculture development 

Climate change is one of the most significant risks facing the world’s 270 million smallholder farmers in Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, and South and Southeast Asia. An unexpected flood, or increasingly high temperatures can wipe out an entire season’s crop, leaving entire families, communities, and regions hungry and impoverished. The recent drought caused by an exceptionally strong El Niño current is estimated to have left 100 million in Asia, Latin America and Africa with food shortages.

Rural farmers’ inability to manage risks like climate change adds to the difficulties they face in accessing finance.

“Climate-smart agriculture” (CSA) is a term that has been developed to explore how farmers can meet this challenge. It aims to build consensus around which agricultural practices can contribute to increasing farm productivity and incomes; to building greater resilience to climate shocks; and to minimizing own agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions – all in an equitable and sustainable manner. But this is no easy task.

To explain how climate-smart agriculture works, the global sustainable agriculture coalition Farming First has teamed up with the Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture (GACSA) to produce a brand new animated video, and 28 case studies that show climate-smart agriculture in action. 

One case study of climate-smart agriculture in action, provided by Farming First supporter aWhere, focuses on getting weather data into farmers’ hands. In Ghana, meteorological data collected by aWhere is used by the information service Esoko, which pushes weather forecasts, climate-smart agricultural tips, and market prices to over 20,000 farmers per week by SMS messages. It is backed up by a call center staffed with agronomists who have access to detailed weather visualizations specific to the caller’s location. “The weather forecasts helped me plan better to take advantage of the rainy season,” comments Nibe-Ib Besane, a farmer from the Lawra District in Ghana.

The iShamba SMS and call center service also uses aWhere weather data to provide information to 300,000 registered farmers in Kenya. This information allows farmers to better plan for planting, input and treatment applications – making farmers more resilient to climate change. The next phase is to time agronomic tips and recommendations with weather and growth stage models. For example, a weeding recommendation can be pushed at stage two of a farmer’s maize plant growth, calculated from their planting date. This increases the effectiveness of these tips and recommendations, as they are more likely to reach farmers at the right time in their cropping season.

An ecosystem of well-informed farmers, who have enhanced capabilities to cope with climate shocks can fare better and access the finance required to build up their own farming activities. With the capital to buy better seeds and fertilizers, or other on-and off-farm investments, a farmer can see his or her livelihood transformed.

To explore the rest of the case studies in this series, visit

About the Author(s)

Learning Lab content contributor

Farming First is a coalition of 180 multi-stakeholder organisations. The coalition exists to articulate, endorse and promote practical, actionable programmes, and activities to further sustainable agricultural development worldwide.

With one shared voice, Farming First highlights the importance of improving farmers’ livelihoods and agriculture’s potential contribution to global issues such as food securityclimate change, andbiodiversity. It also aims to build synergies amongst its supporters in promoting Farming First’s mission.

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