Thursday, October 30, 2014
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Climate-Smart Smallholders

KIGALI – Until the world’s small farmers adopt a series of necessary changes, climate talks such as the United Nations Rio+20 Summit, which will take place in Rio de Janeiro this June, will never translate into action. The emergence of a global green economy requires governments, other policymakers, and businesses from developed and emerging economies to recognize the inextricable linkages between climate change, the environment, and food security. This means bringing the world’s smallholder agriculture into the discussion.

Every day, smallholder farmers in developing countries confront the consequences of climate change. They are often the very first to fall prey to fickle global markets or extreme weather events.

Yet smallholders cannot be ignored when it comes to climate-change solutions: the world’s half-billion small farms account for 60% of global agriculture production and provide up to 80% of the food supply in developing countries. Together, they manage vast areas of our planet, including 80% of the farmland in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.

Can we really count on these farmers, many of them desperately poor, to take a leading role in addressing the twin challenges of food security and environmental sustainability? Can they produce more food while protecting the natural environment?

We believe the answer to both questions is a resounding yes. Real-world experience shows that they can. But success is possible only if they can adopt environmentally sustainable techniques that preserve and enhance soil and groundwater.

Examples of how this can be done include terracing to prevent soil loss and degradation through erosion and flooding; radically reducing tillage; rotating crops and applying natural fertilizers – manure, compost, or mulch – to improve soil structure and fertility; and integrating trees with crops and livestock in agro-forestry systems.

Rwanda’s recent experience provides a beacon of hope that increased agricultural output and environmental protection can go hand-in-hand. In the country’s south-western Ngororero District, for example, a project backed by the International Fund for Agricultural Development has helped Rwandan farmers to increase crop yields by up to 300% through improvements such as higher-quality seeds, better planting technologies, and application of fertilizers at the optimal time.

On a larger scale, farmers across Rwanda are replacing greenhouse-gas-producing chemical fertilizers with manure. In some areas of the country, smallholders are also now terracing their land and using other natural techniques to improve the soil’s water-retention capacity and quality, as well as to increase their crop yields.

Using these approaches, Rwanda has quadrupled its agricultural production over the past five years. Indeed, thanks to such remarkable progress in such a short time, Rwanda is now a food-secure country.

Rwanda’s efforts to promote climate-smart agriculture are supported by a wider policy and investment framework that seeks to ensure that all farmers, however small, have access to improved seeds, technical know-how, and a market for their output. Every developing country must understand that we can ensure that smallholders produce more food in sustainable ways only if their farming is profitable.

Indeed, increasing environmentally sustainable farming among smallholders around the world will require reshaping national policies and the architecture of public and private investment so that farmers can learn these techniques, witness their value, and employ them profitably.

The lesson is simple: identify the climate-smart farming practices and techniques that can boost agricultural production, convey the relevant know-how to smallholders, support them as they make the transition, and create a policy environment that enables them to take advantage of this knowledge.

If national policies and international development initiatives support the transition to climate-smart agriculture in these ways, we have no doubt that smallholders everywhere will step up and do their part to help save the planet.

Read more from our "The Road to Rio+20" Focal Point.

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  1. Commentedigihe com

    This article is abusing this website, I wish I can debate with authors and ask them how replacing greenhouse, substituting chemical fertilizer by natural fertilizers such as manure can Rwanda quadrupled its agricultural production over the past five years? Were fertilizers and green house used in Rwanda, if yes at how level? Look at published statistics at FAOSTAT and other official publications and see where Rwanda has been ranked in use of those input over time.

    If we try to use our common sense, can shift from modern technology to traditional ones impacts agricultural positively with five years? If yes all countries included US and China could have done so.

    Let us assume and agree that the story is wright, and say that agricultural production quadrupled over last five years. Some statistics prove wrong; agricultural sector have been contributing over 35% to overall GDP. If the contribution quadrupled then, It means that statistically if agricultural sector is still contributing the same rate other economics sectors also have know the same increase otherwise agricultural could have took over and contribute over 70 to overall economics. If all sectors increased proportionally in order to maintain the same the agricultural contribution to GDP, then how can be the economic growth? does rwandan economy quadrupled over last five years, while the reported annual economic growth have never been over 10%?

    I am not economist but a rwandese who like figure. I did not indicate my real name and address, I am sorry for that but as I have been visiting this website for academic I think it is important to ask the authors to try to be accurate in what they are writing.

  2. CommentedJonathan Lam

    Gamesmith94134: Climate-Smart Smallholders

    Since Rwanda’s recent experience provides a beacon of hope that increased agricultural output and environmental protection can go hand-in-hand; and in the country’s south-western Ngororero District project backed by the International Fund for Agricultural Development has helped Rwandan farmers to increase crop yields by up to 300%; then it is best advertisement for investment for private and public funds.

    In term of redistribution of wealth, the nature has its way in balancing itself after the effects of the extremes. For the years of our abusive monetarism, US lost its competitiveness to China because it has maximized its effectiveness to trade; after the developed nations ran amok with its credits. For much of the international financial transaction summed to 600 trillion a year, in assumption, US ran at 20% and due to the shrinkage on 3% growth. It is about 120 trillion normally. Due to the unsettled EU debts, the cash flow is running at 95% even though DJ jumped to 13000, some of its investment went south or the emerging markets. Then the South nations may grow rapidly at 7% in 2012, and the labors can grow 10-15% if productivity proven to be positive even under the shadow of the Middle East oil Crisis.

    Eventually, the 120 trillion by US will cut as well; it is why the FED is suggesting the EQ3 on liquidity. I am not sure how firm the dollar is to other currencies at present 76; but if it is running under the nominal capacity. The trend interacted with the aftermath of the EU crisis. It will extend for seven years or till another resolution is available. In between, inflation will hit the developed nations as well since the emerging market may give in the rise for cost after the boom. Then, the import/export of US will reverse itself afterward back to square one of another cycle.

    If national policies and international development initiatives support the transition to climate-smart agriculture in these ways, we have no doubt that smallholder everywhere will step up and do their part to help save the planet. Moreover, there more funds are available to the South Hemisphere like Africa or South America; if these investors are convinced that the North, as the EU crisis will continue and American economy is deteriorating from the high rise of cost and low interest rates.

    Why not FAO or UA think big like the movie like: Salmon fishing in Yemen?

    I paid $42 for Disneyland I never been, is there a Cocoa farm in Cote d’lvoire with less of child labor I can invest in? Or, is there a rice plantation in Ghana available? These are the answers to urbanization of Africa that in creation of the theme farm village turns to township with a mill and a better build in transportation. Perhaps, these climate-smart smallholders can turn them into shareholder of the local innovated government bonds to the corporation of Africa.

    The lesson is simple: identify the climate-smart farming practices and techniques led by the NGO office and Development Banks or AU; that can boost agricultural production, with the cooperation of the Nations to affirm the policy and functionary to procure it policy and financial system. African Nations need the private investment and create a policy environment that enables the utility of human labor resources and local innovations to start working on a theme or a formula to lure its investors. Without foreign investors from other nations, the resources of just by African Nations are limited to growth. This is the moment the African Nations can stand on its own human resources to grow.

    “In receiving alms, you may lose an arm.” Why climate-Smart Small holder? They can be a share-holder of its theme farm cooperation after IPO. Dream on it and don’t sleep on it. Time limited.

    May the Buddha bless you?

  3. CommentedProcyon Mukherjee

    This is a brilliant article which highlights how public-private partnerships can succeed in an area where not so many examples exist. Small holders of land for farming is an area of interest for every developing economy and the solution to their problems hold the key to the improvement of living conditions of a whopping majority who directly and indirectly depend on such activities. The article highlights the key inputs that have gone in for improvement of productivity in small-holder segments both for soil and ground water issues. The other important side of the problem is on the revenue side, when small holders do not get the desired realization from their yields from the quasi-controlled market. This side of the problem, including the failures of the market sometimes, is a constant reminder to the small holder that dependence on information tools and inter-dependence of farming communities holds the key to some of the long term woes, on which he has only very limited access or control.

    Procyon Mukherjee

  4. CommentedAndrés Arellano Báez

    It is a fantastic article but the problem is that we can doubt of the objectivity of the authors (the President of Rwuanda and the President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development). Now, the true is the article is a very inspirational and I really hope the figures mentioned here are real. Now, my question is; how can we transform those billion people with hungry in customers of the smallholders with green productivity? If we achieve that, we can create a profitable market for the smallholders and we fix a horrible problem of our world.

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