Climate-smart agriculture is not distinct from sustainable agriculture; it combines multiple sustainable practices to address the unique climate issues a particular farming community faces.
FREMONT, CA: Climate change is upending farmers’ livelihoods. Unpredictable weather patterns, shorter growing seasons, droughts, high temperatures, and increasing vulnerability to pests and crop diseases offer formidable challenges for smallholder farmers worldwide—particularly in the tropics, where people rely more on natural resources. Climate-smart agriculture approaches can assist farmers in adapting to and preparing for adverse effects, thereby preserving—and even improving—their livelihoods.
The following are some of the sectors in which climate-smart methods can be implemented:
MANAGEMENT OF THE CROP
Climate-smart policies adapted to a given region, farming community, or even individual farm can be determined following climate impacts and risks assessment. Pruning is critical in cocoa, for example. Still, it must be done following local climate risks: When there is heavy rainfall, pruning should be done more frequently to maintain healthier, faster-recovering trees, whereas during protracted dry seasons, a farmer should avoid pruning so heavily that primary branches and trunks receive excessive sunlight. Harvesting and fermenting (in the case of cocoa) also require various procedures depending on the climate. To dry beans in heavy rains or high moisture, essential sun dryers made of wood frames and plastic sheets can be constructed.
MANAGEMENT OF PEST AND DISEASE
Global warming can result in the emergence of pests and illnesses that can significantly lower harvests and even destroy entire farms. Climate-smart agricultural training equips farmers with the information necessary to apply the appropriate amount of pesticides at the appropriate time of year to tackle these newly increasing pests. Farmers in all temperature zones utilize manual weeding as much as possible, targeting noxious weeds while allowing soft weeds to replenish the soil and prevent nutrient-rich topsoil from eroding.
Heavy rains, particularly on sloping slopes, can wash away the topsoil. Planting ground cover helps preserve the soil in heavy rains—and it's also highly beneficial in drought-prone places since it aids in moisture retention. Farmers can construct drainage systems in flood-prone locations to prevent nutrient-rich topsoil from being carried away; trenches can also assist regulate excess water and keep soil in place. Planting on contours, such as hills or natural terraces, also helps to reduce soil erosion. Mulching—the process of incorporating organic matter from crop waste into the soil—can also be beneficial.
All techniques that enhance soil quality and structure also increase production, which is a primary objective of climate-smart agriculture. Additionally, healthy soils act as carbon sinks, absorbing carbon dioxide and removing it from the environment, thereby assisting in the fight against climate change.