On September 23, at the United Nations Climate Summit, leaders representing governments, the private sector, and civil society announced that they would join the Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA) – a voluntary, farmer-led, multi-stakeholder, action-oriented coalition committed to the incorporation of climate-smart approaches within food and agriculture systems. Signatories to the Climate Summit Action Statement on Agriculture pledge to increase agricultural productivity, enhance the resilience of 500 million people in agriculture by 2030, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. While acting on that commitment, they should be mindful of the enabling environment that influences the decisions of smallholder farmers.
Research has repeatedly shown that smallholder farmers adopt more sustainable practices when they have secure access to land and resources, and the right to manage and benefit from them. Securing land tenure and resource rights can help strengthen weak enabling environments that, left unchecked, may hamper efforts to promote the adoption of CSA practices. It may also be necessary to support efforts or programming that amends the legal and regulatory environment, such as revising forest codes and rural codes for pastoralists; recognizing individual and customary land rights; revisiting lease laws for agricultural lands; and identifying ways to coordinate land use and land management plans across ministries.
Smallholder farmers are more likely to adopt CSA practices, make necessary investments, and sustainably manage their land resources over the long-term when they have incentives to do so. Strengthened rights and access to land and resources create forward-looking incentives because they provide a sense of permanence, stability, and predictability that allows farmers to make long-term planning and management decisions that are often required to reap the full stream of benefits associated with CSA.
While some CSA practices can be adopted quickly and easily, the following practices are more likely to be widely adopted where land tenure is secure and resource rights are well defined:
- Agro-forestry: intercropping to improve soil structure, organic carbon content, infiltration, and fertility; establishing shelterbelts to reduce erosion
- Improved agronomic practices: continuous cropping, use of cover crops, crop rotations
- Tillage and residue management: soil conservation
- Improved water management: terracing, water harvesting, bunds/ridges
- Improved livestock management: managed access to grazing lands, pasture regeneration, managing water use, improving rangeland management
USAID is promoting the adoption of CSA practices to sustainably address broader food security and climate change goals. For further discussion of how secure land tenure and property rights provide the right incentives to adopt CSA practices, USAID’s Land Tenure and Property Rights Division will release an issue brief on the subject by the end of 2014.
Until then, read USAID’s Climate Change, Property Rights, and Resource Governance issue brief.