Climate-smart agriculture can be “an effective tool to address climate change and climate variability,” according to Kai Sonder, head of CIMMYT’s geographic information systems (GIS) unit, who was one of 754 participants from 75 countries, including 39 CIMMYT representatives, at the third annual Global Science Conference on Climate-Smart Agriculture, held in Montpellier, France, during 16-18 March.
“Challenges are different for developing and developed countries, but climate change is affecting all of us,” said Sonder. Millions of smallholder farmers in developing countries have less than one hectare of land, earn less than USD $1 per day and are highly vulnerable to extreme climatic events. Many farmers in developed countries struggle to make a living, are dependent on subsidies and insurance payouts and are also highly vulnerable to extreme climatic events.
Modern agriculture, food production and distribution are major contributors of greenhouse gases, generating about one-quarter of global emissions. Climate-smart agriculture addresses the interlinked challenges of food security and climate change by sustainably increasing agricultural productivity, building resilience in food-production systems and reducing greenhouse gas emissions in agriculture.
Challenges and areas where climate-smart agriculture has yet to take hold were addressed at the conference. “California has not practiced it for 50 years and is now dealing with the consequences of poor groundwater management,” said Sonder. “Likewise, Ciudad Obregón and Sinaloa in Mexico are fully-irrigated areas in the middle of a desert where climate-smart practices need to be implemented on a larger scale based on CIMMYT’s activities with local partners.”
Progress and exhibitions on climate-smart agriculture projects were also showcased. “This is becoming an integral part of CIMMYT work, as climate conditions increasingly disrupt growing seasons,” Sonder said. “MasAgro is looking at water and nutrient efficiency in Mexico, and CIMMYT is developing maize and wheat varieties that are tolerant to stresses like heat and drought and their combinations,” said Sonder. In collaboration with the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Food Security and Agriculture (CCAFS), CIMMYT has also piloted 27 climate-smart villages in Haryana, India, which will disseminate key climate-smart agricultural interventions.
The conference also allowed potential partners to meet and identify areas for future cooperation. Sonder mentioned interactions with Jacob van Etten, Senior Scientist at Bioversity International, who works on climate change and climate-smart agriculture in Costa Rica and uses iButton sensors to measure climate data in the field. “Such cheap and effective devices can allow us to reach more places, and I’d like to use them to monitor storage and humidity conditions in metal silos for CIMMYT’s Effective Grain Storage Project in eastern and southern Africa, as well as in the postharvest activities of MasAgro in Mexico,” said Sonder