Climate-Smart Agriculture

5 May 2018

According to the forecasts of scientists, the world population will increase from 7 to 9-10 bn. by 2050. Accordingly, in order to meet the growing needs of the population, agricultural production volumes should increase by 70-100% by this time. However, it is absolutely obvious that an increase in production will inevitably entail an increase of the environmental impact. Given this fact, we see that the problem of climate change is closely connected with the problem of food security. The ability to ensure our food stability for the future is under threat. The main question is how to provide humanity with necessary food provisions, without causing even greater harm to the environment. Unfortunately, to date the reality is that this issue has not been given due attention even in the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

In addition, during Seeds and Chip conference in May 2014 in Milan (Italy), the former President of the United States of America Barack Obama also noted that agriculture is the second source of greenhouse gas emissions, after the energy sector. In this case, how to reduce emissions, without reducing production volumes?

And here the Climate-Smart Agriculture concept (CSA) is ready to help us. This term was originally introduced by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). According to FAO, CSA is “an approach to developing the technical, policy and investment conditions to achieve sustainable agricultural development for food security under climate change”. In other words, “climate-smart” agriculture is an approach to farming with minimal impact on the environment. Its main objectives:

·        Increasing of agricultural productivity;

·         Adapting and building resilience to climate change;

·         Reducing and/or removing greenhouse gases emissions.

According to scientists, if we continue to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture at the same rate, we will be able to achieve the main objective of the Paris Agreement - to keep the increase in global average temperature to well below 2 °C - only by 2100. Taking into account such a disappointing scenario, the agricultural sector was given special attention at the climate conference held in Bonn, Germany (United Nations Climate Change Conference, also COP23). By the conference results, “119 countries included measures to reduce emissions in agriculture in their national contributions” [1]. As part of this event, the World Bank formulated the main criteria for the development of “climate-smart” agriculture: supporting farmers in their adaptation to climate change, ensuring food security, and promoting and applying agricultural measures that help to retain carbon underground.

Thus, we see that agriculture represents a special front for the “fighting operations” against climate change at the global level. The Central Asian region is not an exception. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), as early as in 2014-2016, the number of starving people in Tajikistan amounted to 30% of the total population.

By the report of Viktor Novikov, representative of “Zoi” organization, presented at the Central Asia Climate Change Conference, the main distinguished feature of Tajikistan as compared to other Central Asian countries is also the fact that “from the late 1990s, agriculture has been the main source of emissions (in Tajikistan) (60%)”. Fortunately, the situation is less shocking in other Central Asian countries. Nevertheless, the problem is still very urgent.

However, even today, measures to introduce “climate-smart” agriculture have gained the widespread use in the countries of Central Asia. However, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are the only two countries of Central Asia which have officially included “climate-smart” agriculture elements in their National Reserve Funds. Nevertheless, some practices implemented in the countries of Central Asia to date can also be classified as “climate-smart” approaches to agriculture.

Thus, with the support of the World Bank in 2013, Tajikistan launched the project of “Public employment for sustainable agriculture and water resources management”. Its main task was to provide the population with temporary workplaces, as well as to restore irrigation and drainage infrastructures in the districts of Jilikul, Jomi, Rumi, Rudaki, Yovon, Hamadoni, Vose, Bokhtar, Panj, Hisor, Khuroson and Nosiri Khisrav. “Restoring the irrigation and drainage infrastructure will improve access to irrigation for about 190 thous. hectares of land, thus covering 750 000 rural residents in all target areas. As a result of the project, a 10 % increase in crop yields is expected” [2].

As for Kyrgyzstan, in this country the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) was implementing the project on sustainable management of mountain forests and land resources in the context of climate change. The project was funded by the Global Environment Facility. For Kyrgyzstan, as for highland country, such a project was especially relevant, since mountain ecosystems are most vulnerable to climate change. The significance of this project consists in its complex approach, as it interconnects the problems of forest resources with the problems of pasture lands and considers them through the prism of climate change. In general, this project sets three main tasks: “creating favorable conditions for sustainable management of forest and land resources; increasing of carbon stocks in forest ecosystems and promotion of agriculture in the context of climate change, including pastures as part of sustainable land and water management system in arid regions”.

Among the “climate-smart” agriculture practices in Kyrgyzstan, we should also note the use of organic fertilizers in Tosh-Bulak, Chetindi and Borulu villages. In these localities, САMP-Alatoo Public Fund proposed to introduce the biohumus production and application technology. Biohumus or caprolite is a fertilizer obtained with the help of Californian worms, which treat fresh manure in a special trench. The advantage of this organic fertilizer is the fact that the land degradation process is inhibited due to the increase of organic mass in the soil. In addition, the yield of grown plants increases, which ensures greater food stability for the population.

One more initiative that could also be attributed to “climate-smart” agriculture, this time in Kazakhstan, is the regional school for young agronomists from Central Asia, established with the support of UNDP sustainable land management projects in 2015. Within the framework of this school, the students obtained information about the best practices in agriculture: on water-resource-saving technologies of cultivation, application of zero and minimal tillage, various innovative technologies for cultivation of crops resistant to climate change. The students of this unusual school are decision-makers from Central Asia and Afghanistan, as well as agricultural specialists.

As for Uzbekistan, the distinctive feature of this country is that due to its geographical location, it is completely dependent on artificial irrigation. Thus, the most urgent issue for this country is water conservation. As the problem of access to water sources is growing in the context of global warming, the country has initiated the project of “Sustainable management of water resources in rural areas of Uzbekistan”. Its fundamental goal was to improve water management, as well as to raise public awareness of the rational use of water resources, especially in agriculture.

In addition, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has also been invited to introduce digital information technologies in agriculture. More details on the role of new technologies applied against climate change are provided in our article “8 online platforms and applications for those users interested in ecology”.

Agricultural production could become more precise, environmentally-friendly and fast-reacting if digital technologies penetrated this economic sector”. With the introduction of digital agriculture system, farmers will have access to necessary information and will be able to run their farms taking into account the existing climatic and ecological realities. However, to date FAO has been testing this method more in Eastern Europe. Nevertheless, it is planned to gradually introduce the e-agriculture methodology in Central Asia.

Climate Adaptation and Mitigation Program for the Aral Sea Basin (CAMP4ASB)