During its six years, the USAID Agricultural Growth and Rural Opportunities (USAID AGRO) Activity solidified and sustained its achievements by fully integrating climate risk management (CRM) into its agricultural development approach. Through CRM, USAID’s process for identifying and mitigating climate threats in all sectors, this Activity met its primary goals of boosting the competitiveness of Kosovo’s agriculture sector, raising farmer incomes, and generating new job opportunities.
USAID AGRO’s CRM work helped protect USAID’s investments in Kosovo’s rapidly developing agricultural sector while building partners’ capacity to manage current and projected climate impacts on agricultural production and grow their operations sustainably. CRM actions contributed to USAID AGRO’s success in improving crop yields, conserving water resources, reducing crop losses, creating new agricultural jobs, and strengthening the resilience of its partners—despite an increasingly variable and more extreme climate. A more detailed case study provides additional information about USAID AGRO’s CRM actions and their value to the activity, which ran from March 2015 to February 2021.
The USAID AGRO team recognized that climate risks including droughts and extreme weather threatened the ability to achieve the activity’s primary goals. Droughts limited access to water for irrigation, and late-spring frosts––along with more frequent and intense heavy rains and hail––damaged crops.
Mark Wood, former USAID AGRO Chief of Party and Senior Advisor to the team, explained that the team had no choice but to incorporate CRM actions into its work. “Everything we did was because it was necessary.”
To reduce these risks, USAID AGRO implemented the following CRM actions:
- Installed and activated drip irrigation systems on approximately 2,000 hectares (ha) of raspberry plants and 60 ha of blueberry plants;
- Implemented fertigation practices on approximately 400 ha of greenhouses and approximately 1,000 ha of vegetable fields;
- Installed an anti-frost system on 8 ha of orchards to demonstrate the system’s effectiveness;
- Installed heating systems and improved ventilation for more than 250 ha of greenhouses;
- Installed 19 climate monitoring stations across production zones in six municipalities;
- Enrolled 800 farmers in an early warning system text message service that provides information on several key fruit and vegetable crops; and
- Advised the Government of Kosovo on expanding and increasing the effectiveness of its agricultural insurance program.
These interventions produced important benefits for USAID AGRO and its partners, including yield increases ranging from 50-300 percent for key fruit and vegetable crops, reduced water demand of up to approximately 4,000 m3/ha for certain crops, avoided crop losses from extreme temperatures and precipitation events, additional jobs and income for women farm workers, and enhanced capacity of strategic partners, including 7,308 farmers.
Armend Skeja, a fruit producer who partnered with USAID AGRO, estimates CRM practices could reduce crop losses by 90 percent if implemented across an entire farm. The hail nets that he received from USAID AGRO protected four of his fields, which experienced little to no hail damage, while unprotected fields experienced up to 80 percent damage.
USAID AGRO demonstrated that CRM can deliver tangible benefits and monetary value to beneficiaries while helping USAID protect its investments from climate impacts. USAID AGRO ended in February 2021, but strong, resilient partners are applying the knowledge they gained through work with USAID AGRO to maintain CRM actions. “Some of [USAID AGRO’s] biggest successes are in the knowledge of farmers,” said Fatmir Selimi, USAID AGRO Chief of Party.
USAID AGRO staff observed this growth in capacity over the course of the activity. “When you start being taught by farmers the things they know, and they express them with confidence, then you know you’ve succeeded,” said Mark Wood. “You know that they will continue learning.”
Lorine Giangola, Ph.D., Abt Associates, specializes in natural resources management and climate change adaptation, with a focus in agroecosystems. Her work includes analysis of environmental quality impacts of natural resources management alternatives, development and evaluation of climate change adaptation actions, and development and analysis of national and local adaptation measures and financing strategies. Through multiple USAID activities, Dr. Giangola delivers technical support to governments of developing countries in adaptation planning processes. She received a Ph.D. and M.S. in natural resources management and policy from the University of Colorado Boulder and a B.A. in environmental sciences from the University of Virginia.
David Cooley has fifteen years of demonstrated professional experience involving climate change and air quality science and policy, including tracking and projecting greenhouse gas emissions from multiple sectors. He is a recognized expert in emissions inventory development and in estimating the health impacts of changes in air pollution emissions. He currently supports projects NYESERDA to estimate health impacts of the Climate Act and for EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program and the Global Methane Initiative. Prior to joining Abt Associates, Mr. Cooley worked for Duke University, where he researched climate change policy and its impacts on the forestry and agriculture sectors, and he managed an operational carbon mitigation project for the university at a swine farm in North Carolina.