This is a lay summary of the article published under the DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-92798-5_14
Scientists working with farmers in Tanzania can now measure how well new farming practices work to ease the impacts of climate change. They hope their method will improve food security and crop yields for farmers in other parts of the world as well.
“Climate-smart agriculture” is something the United Nations encourages to help small-scale farmers prepare for climate change. A climate-smart farmer adapts to changing weather patterns and is able to increase food security by boosting their crop productivity.This is a particularly relevant issue for Tanzanian farmers, as the country is already experiencing lower yields of important cereal crops because of climate change. But, researchers say it is difficult to measure the success of climate-smart interventions, such as composting, and farmers themselves are not always consulted about whether interventions are working as intended.
In this study, the researchers wanted to design a method to measure the success of climate smart interventions, with a specific focus on improving food security and adaptability.
To start, they read through other agricultural studies and produced 2 lists that included 14 factors, or “indicators”, that are important for measuring food security and adaptation. Then, working in the Lushoto District of Tanzania, the researchers collaborated with local farmers and several agriculture experts to identify the most important indicators from each list.
The farmers identified food production as a very important indicator for ensuring food security. In other words, any interventions that improved the yield from their crops were highly valued.
Meanwhile, for the adaptability aspect, the farmers were particularly interested in interventions that helped them protect their farms’ soil, and those that improved their own knowledge, skills, and income.
Once the researchers had determined the importance of each indicator, they were able to use them to test whether six types of interventions in Lushoto were successful. In each case, they asked local farmers, on a scale of 1-5, whether there had been an increase in each indicator since the intervention started. This allowed them to see which of the interventions had the strongest effect on food security and adaptation.
They found only 3 of the 6 interventions being used had a real impact. Those were composting, drought-tolerant crop varieties, and providing better forage for food animals.
The researchers say their method makes it easier to ensure that future interventions meet the needs of Lushoto’s farmers as well as the objectives of climate smart agriculture. They add that choosing the right interventions also increases the chance that farmers will recommend good practices to their neighbours, thereby spreading climate smart ideas.
In broader terms, the method can also be used in other regions, and can help ensure climate smart strategies take local conditions and farmer knowledge into account through continuous monitoring and evaluation.
By doing so, climate-smart agriculture initiatives are more likely to be successful and gain traction, both in Tanzania and further abroad in Africa.
The study was a collaboration between scientists from Kenya and the Netherlands.
The concept of climate-smart agriculture (CSA) is gaining momentum across the globe. However, it is not specific on what should be covered under its three pillars—productivity, resilience and mitigation. Consequently, CSA encompasses many different agricultural practices/technologies, making it difficult to prioritise CSA objectives. Firstly, there is a lack of clear and workable criteria as well as methods for assessing the climate-smartness of interventions. Secondly, little information exists about the impact of the various interventions already promoted as CSA, especially in the developing world. Finally, CSA prioritisation does not take into account stakeholders’ perspectives to ensure that the interventions are applicable, suitable and of high adoption-potential. Here, we describe a new participatory protocol for assessing the climate-smartness of agricultural interventions in smallholder practices. This identifies farm-level indicators (and indices) for the food security and adaptation pillars of CSA. It also supports the participatory scoring of indicators, enabling baseline and future assessments of climate-smartness to be made. The protocol was tested among 72 farmers implementing a variety of CSA interventions in the climate-smart village of Lushoto, Tanzania. Farmers especially valued interventions that improved soil fertility and structure, reduced surface runoff, and reclaimed degraded land due to the positive impacts on yield and off-season crop agriculture. Mostly, the CSA interventions increased animal production, food production, consumption and income. The protocol is easy to adapt to different regions and farming systems and allows for the better prioritisation of interventions. But we recommend that CSA is adopted as part of a monitoring, evaluation and learning process.
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