Improved infrastructure, smart farm technology can boost smallholder farmers’ climate resilience: Experts

Photo caption: A mountain woman farmer waters her vegetable farm plot outside her home in Dhulikhel town, some 30 kms from Kathmandu, Nepal’s Capital.

 Saleem Shaikh

LIMA, Peru: – Investments in increased access to unhampered flow of weather information, cost-effective & efficient farm technologies, technical know-how, extension services and improved disaster preparedness methods can help smallholder farmers to keep feeding themselves and their families without degrading natural resource base ecosystems any more, climate experts say.

“Such investments are inevitable to boost climate resilience of the farmers, particularly smallholders in developing countries,” emphasizes Gernot Laganda on Wednesday, who heads environment & climate change division at the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) at the launch of report ‘Smallholder Farmers are More Than Climate Victims’ on the sidelines of the 20th session of the United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP 20).

“Our experience shows that the smallholder farmers are fundamentally an integral part of the solution to global warming despite the fact they are more than victims of climate change impacts.”

With around 500 million smallholder farms accounting for nearly four-fifths of food supplies in developing countries, rural men and women run really ‘vital businesses’ on the climate frontline that need to be climate resilient by investing funds in adaptation and mitigation programmes in agricultural sector.

The experts noted that the smallholder farmers often experience more extreme and unpredictable weather, yet they are given the lowest representation in national and global policymaking on climate change.

IFAD president Kanayo F. Nwanze said, “Which is why, we highlight in the climate change debate that smallholder farmers are among the most effective clients for public funds for dealing with issues around the climate change.”

“Such investments have empowered farmers in countries, where we have invested, with access to information, finance, social networks and technologies necessary to boost farm productivity while at the same time restoring a degraded natural resource base and bring down agriculture’s carbon footprints, said Juan De Dios Mattos, regional climate & environment specialist for LAC at IFAD in Rome.

Agricultural investment programmes, however, can provide platforms for climate action, he remarked. Quoting expamples from IFAD’s programmes in developing countries, he said that in Bolivia working with community groups to catalogue indigenous knowledge about natural resource management and blending it with innovative climate change adaptation strategies proved a mechanism that helped to encourage communities to engage in efficient natural resource management and reduction in their misuse.

Besides, in Yemen a climate risk analysis programme was financed, which is now informing the location and design of rural feeder roads. In Rawanda, we supported the government to adopt improved building codes and renewable energy technology for post-harvest processing hubs, buffering the effects of extreme weather events and pest infestations, Matoos highlighted.

Meanwhile, Gernot Laganda shed light on experience in Bangladesh, which is highly vulnerable to cyclones and sea-level rise.

He told TRF that his organization put in place a well-thought-out  US$ 133 million and nine year ‘Climate Adaptation and Livelihood Protection’ (CALIP) programme in the Hoar region situation in northeastern part of the country, which aims to scale up best practice and testing new adaptation interventions to make the infrastructure and livelihoods climate-resilient.

Low lying bowl-shaped basin and covering about 6,000 sq. km in Sylhet Division, mostly in Sunamganj district in Bangladesh, the Hoar region becomes completely inundated with 4-8 meters of water for around 6-7 months of the year. Also, it has become highly vulnerable to high tides/waves. Because, massive deforestation in the region has stripped away the natural barriers that historically have rduced the impact of waves, the IFAD’s report nots.

However, Laganda said, “ Four pilot model villages for resettling poor families are developed. These villages are developed in the light of with sound engineering principles such as low-cost slope stabilization, swamp forests, walkways, communal sanitation and drinking water facilities, renewable energy technologies and storage facilities.”

This initiative will help to cut by 70 percent the number of houses destroyed by wave action and protection 224 villages against the wave action.

This has helped build up resilience to climatic hazards in the Hoar region and strengthen the natural, physical, social, human and financial capital of over 240,000 smallholder farmers, he added.

The CALIP programme also aims to diversify income-generating options for vulnerable smallholders, such as strengthening of small entrepreneurs and working with indigenous vegetative species and pond fisheries in high ground areas, promotion of improved handicraft manufacture using local materials and non-farm vocational trainings in boat-building, engine-repairing and bamboo-cutting, which are relevant to the Hoar region, Gernot Laganda elaborated.

Gernot Laganda highlight another example that how a US$ 83 million ‘Post-Harvest and Agribusiness Support Project’ (PASP) in Rawanda’s different areas are helping in improving post-harvest processing and storage techniques, including developing the financial incentives and policy mechanisms to bring these climate risk management investments to scale further to increase the number of beneficiary smallholder farmers, who would suffer economic damages due to growing range of climate-induced stresses.

Drought, intense and erratic rainfall, high winds and emerging seasonal and temperature shifts are among the key climate stresses, which continue to hit hard the farm productivity and lead to post-harvest losses due to inadequate or no modern storage facilities.

“Efforts are also being taken to provide a better understanding to smallholder farmers in Rawanda of how agro-meteorological conditions influence harvest and post-harvest activities. This understanding will help farmers take appropriate and time actions to reduce post-harvest losses,” highlighted.

These simple model projects, if replicated in other developing countries, can certainly improve smallholder farmers capability to mitigate impacts of climatic risks/hazards protect their and improve their socio-economic conditions. But this is not possible as long as political will is not swung into action.

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