Can farmers outsmart climate change?
Attention, farmers of the world! Here’s a question for you: How do you feed a world with 9 billion people? Furthermore, how will you do so while facing hotter seasons, droughts, weirder weather, and water shortages?
That’s a mighty tall order, but let me assure you: There is work underway to plan for this overwhelming future. It’s called climate-smart agriculture, and if you haven’t heard of it already, here’s what you need to know.
Climate-smart agriculture (CSA, not to be confused with, CSAs) is the idea that farmers — along with their friends with money and agriculture/climate science knowledge — should develop and use technologies that work with the ever-changing climate, not against it. Why? Well, to put it simply, so that climate change doesn’t completely disrupt our food system forcing us all to go hungry.
A recent article in Modern Farmer explains that up until recently, CSA was more of a philosophy than a solid plan:
Climate-smart agriculture is a sort of overview concept originally put forth in 2010 by the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization … [it is] a general idea about adjusting all forms of agriculture (“farms, crops, livestock, aquaculture, and capture fisheries”) to better adapt to a changing climate.
CSA is going to be difficult to implement. It requires academic research, technology development, and the money to make it happen. But when it all comes together, CSA could help farmers deal with climate change affecting crop health and yields, move away from environmentally harmful farming practices, and learn to use less carbon-reliant technology.
Luckily, CSA is starting to gain attention. The Consultative Group of International Agricultural Research, a group of 15 scientific research centers that specialize in assisting farmers in the tropics, recently issued a statement that it would commit a 60 whopping percent of its operating budget (which is over $55 million) to develop climate-smart tools for 500 million farmers around the world. (Let’s take a moment to pause for applause.)
And here’s a shock for you: The U.S. government is starting to get on board, too! Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack recently launched the Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture, a group that promotes agriculture that reduces the impact of climate change.
This is a CSA we hope more farmers sign up for.
The other CSA: What is climate-smart agriculture?,