According to current projections, climate change will have many deleterious effects on agriculture, including irregular rainfall, increased drought, reduced yields, emergence of new diseases and migration of crop pests, leading to a decrease in production yields. These effects are already perceptible: global yields of maize and wheat have been reduced by 3.8 per cent and 5.5 per cent respectively. In the coming years, food insecurity will consequently be exacerbated in areas currently vulnerable to hunger and undernutrition.
But agriculture is not only a victim of climate change: it is also a culprit. On a global scale, agriculture, forestry and other land uses are responsible for nearly a quarter of all man-made greenhouse gas emissions. Thus as a victim, agriculture needs to adapt in order to ensure global food security. As a culprit, it has to contribute to mitigating greenhouse gas emissions and to boosting carbon sequestration. Agriculture can be part of the solution to climate change. It is the only human activity that can capture significant amounts of carbon through the storage of organic matter in the soils. It can also contribute to lower carbon use in sectors such as energy and construction, through the production of biomass.
Forged five years ago, the concept of climate-smart agriculture aims to solve the thorny ‘adaptation-mitigation-food security’ equation. This holistic approach unites numerous issues related to agricultural and global development: agroecology, energy and water, social issues, economic issues and public policies. It has three objectives: to ensure sustainable agricultural production, to adapt to current climate conditions and to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. Achieving these goals will require co-operation at many levels, including working not only with scientists but also with farmers’ organisations and other stakeholders.
Several solutions are considered, including agroecological practices in tropical countries, in order to quickly improve yields while reducing the use of chemical inputs, and the French 4 per 1000 initiative, which aims to compensate for man-made CO2 emissions while boosting agricultural production and therefore ensure global food security.
There is no doubt that man’s use of rural land will be one of the major issues of the 21st century. In this context, climate-smart agriculture will help increase income and productivity, increase resilience, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But its greatest merit lies in the way the international community has embraced the concept: along with the Global Alliance of Climate-Smart Agriculture (GACSA), African and Asian countries have also created their own continental platforms in the Africa Climate-Smart Agriculture Alliance, and Climate-Smart Agriculture Learning Platform for South Asia.
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