Souleymane Baldé and his wife Dianke in their rice field in the rural commune of Mampatim in southern Senegal.

Case Studies from Nine Countries Show Climate Change Mitigation Co-benefits from Agricultural Practices that Support Food Security

An Analysis of Nine USAID Agricultural Development Projects Shows How Low-emission Practices Contribute to Food Security and Mitigate Climate Change
By Julie Nash, Julianna White

One hundred and nineteen countries included agriculture as a sector for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in international commitments to address climate change. While these countries are committed to reducing emissions from agriculture, they must also support food production goals.

Agricultural management practices can contribute to increased productivity and resilience as well as climate change mitigation. Over the last year, we conducted research to improve understanding of how different management practices impact yields, net greenhouse gas emissions and emission intensity. This is critical to achieving both production and mitigation goals.

In our analyses of nine USAID agricultural projects, we found agricultural management practices that benefit production, provide climate change mitigation co-benefits and have potential for widespread adoption in rice, agroforestry and livestock systems. We describe five particularly promising practices and provide links to all nine below.


In alternate wetting and drying (AWD) farmers periodically dry their irrigated lowland rice fields.

How it works
Because submerged soil leads to low-oxygen conditions, organic residue in flooded rice paddies decomposes anaerobically, releasing methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. Periodically drying the paddy interrupts this process and can reduce methane emissions by up to half as compared to continuous flooding. AWD also reduces water use by up to 30%, conserving water and the fuel required to pump it, often decreasing out-of-pocket costs for farmers.
On the ground experience
Analyses revealed that although AWD delivers high climate change mitigation benefits per-area, barriers limit widespread adoption. The extent to which AWD can contribute to climate change mitigation and water conservation depends on identifying where and how to surmount these barriers. See links for more on AWD analyses in Bangladesh, Ghana and Haiti.

Urea deep placement (UDP) is a fertilizer management technology that improves nutrient use efficiency by placing urea briquettes into soil, instead of broadcasting urea granules on the surface of soil.

How it works
UDP reduces emissions of nitrous oxide and unintended nitrogen loss caused by volatilization of ammonia, surface runoff and nitrate leaching. UDP also decreases the amount of fertilizer needed compared to surface broadcasting. AAPI, a food security project in Bangladesh, promoted the use of UDP on over one million hectares of rice.
On the ground experience
While emission reductions per hectare from UDP are small, AAPI expected wide uptake of UDP and thus large emission reductions for the project. AAPI also found that farmers who use mechanization for UDP are more likely to adopt the practice, given the physical demands of manually placing briquettes.

Perennial crops and agroforestry remove carbon from the atmosphere by storing carbon in plant biomass and soil. 

How it works
Improving landscape management by avoiding land degradation, replacing annual crops with perennial crops, installing agroforestry systems and better managing soil fertility convey climate change mitigation benefits by creating conditions in which plants and soil can store more carbon and/or reducing emissions associated with fertilizer.
On the ground experience
Emission reductions potential varies by particular practice.  Agroforestry projects need to consider which types of agroforestry systems make sense in the local context and pay careful attention to why farmers might or might not adopt and maintain trees in their fields. In Zambia, farmers adopted alley agroforestry systems (in which rows of perennial crops or trees are planted among annual crops) and experienced increased annual crop productivity while sequestering carbon. These farmers also had an added incentive to grow and maintain trees on their farms: the project connected them to consumer markets through a product label that offered premium prices to growers who complied with conservation standards, including practicing agroforestry.

Herd-size management strategies aim to increase productivity, enabling reduction of herd size while maintaining the level of production of the agricultural product, such as milk or meat for example.

How it works
In general, a small but efficient herd increases productivity per animal and results in lower net greenhouse gas emissions.
On the ground experience
A project in Kenya aimed to reduce total herd-size by 10% in two counties through quicker animal growth that allows slaughter at an earlier age. The project boosted producers’ access to inputs (feed and veterinary services), improved market links between livestock producers and buyers and increased the availability of timely market information for livestock producers. This herd-size management strategy was appropriate for Kenya; project developers must adapt strategies to the local context and assess whether incentives or changes to enabling conditions (e.g., insurance, financial services) are needed for a livestock producer to reduce herd size without facing production risks.

Grassland improvements are accomplished through managing the intensity and timing of grazing, planting or protecting species and/or adding nutrients and water to promote growth.

How it works
Grassland improvements contribute to increased agricultural productivity and provide mitigation co-benefits by sequestering more carbon in soil and biomass.
On the ground experience
In Ethiopia, a project improved pasture quality and increased biomass and soil carbon sequestration by employing soil and water conservation measures, enclosing degraded pastures, selectively thinning bush and clearing the invasive plant Prosopis.

These analyses are meant to contribute to the understanding of how agricultural development activities contribute to natural resource management and climate change mitigation and of how to quantify and monitor emission changes in agricultural production.


More information about the project and the methodology used for the case studies are available here.

Blog originally published on Climatelinks on October 15, 2017.

This research was made possible through support provided by the Office of Global Climate Change, U.S. Agency for International Development. CCAFS is carried out with support from CGIAR Fund Donors and through bilateral funding agreements. For details please visit The views expressed in this document cannot be taken to reflect the official opinions of these organizations.

Strategic Objective
Mitigation, Sustainable Landscapes
Africa, Asia, Global, Latin America & Caribbean

Julie Nash

Dr. Julie Nash was, at the time this work was done, a scientist in low emissions agricultural development with CCAFS and a research associate at the at the Gund Institute for Environment and the Rubenstein School of Natural Resources at the University of Vermont. She is now a Senior Manager in Food and Markets for Ceres, Inc.

Julianna White

Julianna White is a communications officer and program manager for CCAFS Low Emissions Development research.

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