Climate smart agriculture = diverse agriculture, and vice versa

USAID is seeking feedback on the climate smart agriculture (CSA) strategy of its Feed the Future programme. Recall that CSA has three objectives1

  • Sustainably increasing agricultural productivity and incomes.
  • Adapting and building resilience to climate change.
  • Reducing and/or removing greenhouse gas emissions, where appropriate.

So it’s that triple-win we’re after, and it’s good to see diversification being highlighted in that context by the strategy document:

In general, Mission FTF programs work within diversified production systems that reflect farmer choice around crops, livestock or fish although one value chain may be the focus. Diversification includes not only the number of crops, but also using a wider range of improved varieties and staggered planting times for a given crop. Over a longer time period, crop choices by farmers may shift as risks with one crop rise while another crop option is viewed as a safer bet. Thus diversification can be a strategy for managing risk and optimizing returns, particularly when informed by information on potential shocks, seasonal forecasts and long term climate trends. Ultimately, it will be farmers who directly determine their risks, but FTF programs can help widen the array of appropriate options that confer greater resilience as well as more efficient production with a concomitant reduced GHG footprint.

But why a wider range of only improved varieties? Don’t landraces or varietal or other types of mixtures have any role to play at all? And why mention staggered planting times, but not intercropping, say?

And, most importantly, why no mention at all of conservation of crop diversity as a prerequisite for diversification, and the role of genebanks in that? After all

…it is likely that some (if not all) countries will need germplasm that is currently grown elsewhere to adapt.

And where is that going to come from if not genebanks? You can let USAID know until noon on August 14, 2015.

  1. This is the USDA definition, which differs slightly from FAO’s. []

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