Improving Livestock Production: Dzingirai Juwere from Umzingwane, Matabeleland South, Zimbabwe, has now improved the production and productivity of his cattle after learning and adopting the practice of preparing nutritious low-cost livestock feed rations. Feed the Future is teaching smallholder farmers such as Juwere to formulate nutritionally balanced low to no-cost supplementary feeds using locally available materials such as crop residues, tree pods, cacti, and molasses. The low-cost feeds enable smallholder farmers to maintain their cattle in good body condition throughout the lean periods. | Credit: Finctrac, Inc.; Courtesy of Feed the Future

Climate Smart Agriculture for a Food Secure Future

By Tedi Rabold

The U.S. Government’s Feed the Future program is making climate change a central objective of their strategy. Global food security is under stress from increasingly intense and frequent heat waves, droughts, heavy rains, and major storms, according to the new report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which issues a dire warning of the risks posed with every incremental increase in global warming. Using Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA), Feed the Future helps farmers adapt to climate variations, mitigate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and build resilience to climate shocks.

The Feed the Future initiative was launched in 2010 as a whole-of-government approach to address poverty and malnutrition in response to the global food crisis of 2007–2008. From the beginning, climate change was an important cross-cutting consideration to agricultural productivity and nutrition. With a new program strategy launching in 2022, following a previous strategy refresh in 2016, improving resilience to climate shocks will now be a core principle. 

CSA aligns the integration of climate science with Feed the Future’s food security objectives. CSA is a three-pronged approach that targets sustainably increasing agricultural productivity and incomes, adapting and building resilience to climate change, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. “Throughout the whole production chain, we think about ways can we increase resource use efficiency, but also how can you help adapt to whatever climate shock or circumstance there is, and how can you help mitigate by minimizing emissions from agriculture,” says Moffatt Ngugi, Supervisor Agricultural Development Officer for Integrated Systems for Food Production at USAID. 

Preparation for climate smart farming includes considering improved seeds that are drought tolerant, resist increasing temperatures, and resist salinity from sea level rise, or select livestock breeds that are better suited to specific climates and regions. On the farm, there are specific agronomic practices and livestock and fishery management techniques that can increase productivity and minimize losses due to higher temperatures, lower rainfall, or pests and diseases. After harvest, the aim is to reduce GHG emissions during processing and transportation, such as using clean energy to get the products to market or minimizing food loss and waste.

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Harvesting French Beans: A female farmer, Kamaraba Patricia, harvests and packages French beans for export at one of the irrigation sites supported by Hinga Weze in Bugesera District in Eastern Rwanda. Funded by USAID and Feed the Future, Hinga Weze is constructing solar-powered sites to irrigate 300 hectares around four of the driest districts of Rwanda (Gatsibo, Kayonza, Ngoma and Bugesera), where farmers like Patricia, who were previously unable to produce enough due to lack of water and farming knowledge, are now able to irrigate and use good agricultural practices. As a result, many grow crops all-year-round, doubling their production for the local market and for export.

Utilizing climate smart activities can help reduce exposure and vulnerability and mitigate GHG emissions for smallholder farmers. For example, in the livestock sector, changing the feeding regime of ruminant livestock increases their productivity and reduces methane production, so that for every unit of milk or meat produced, less methane and CO2 are emitted overall. Similarly, instituting an alternate wet and dry agronomic irrigation practice during rice production reduces water use and decreases methane generation. 

Other interventions can also help improve outcomes from climate shocks. Educating farmers on the benefits of reducing soil disturbance from tillage can reduce CO2 emissions and retain soil moisture during dry spells. In addition, improving access to climate and weather information can help farmers prepare for less seasonal rainfall or for incoming destructive storms. For instance, SERVIR, a joint initiative of NASA and USAID, helps developing countries disseminate information from satellites and geospatial technologies to local outlets. 

This information exchange goes both ways. A lot of the important climate change evidence comes from grassroots community efforts that provide local historical context for what is happening on the ground. Feed the Future’s climate smart activities support this notion, that “in order to have transformative progress, you have to go where people are, instead of coming in with your preconceived ideas about what needs to happen, or what the problem is,” says Moffatt.


Learn more about the Feed the Future initiative at www.feedthefuture.gov

Read Feed the Future’s Global Food Security Strategy 2022-2026 

Learn more about Climate Smart Agriculture in Feed the Future Programs (2016)

Country
Rwanda, Zimbabwe
Strategic Objective
Adaptation, Mitigation
Topics
Adaptation, Emissions, Low Emission Development, Food Security and Agriculture, Climate-Smart Agriculture, Land Use, Mitigation, Resilience
Region
Global

Tedi Rabold

Tedi S. Rabold is a science journalist specializing in writing and documentary video production about environmental conservation and public health. She currently provides communications support for various USAID environmental projects. She also works as a paralegal and is currently preparing to sit for the U.S. Patent Office Bar Exam. Tedi holds a Master of Science in Science Journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Science in Biology from The George Washington University, with specialized studies in marine biology at James Cook University in Australia.

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