Climate-Smart Agricultural Practices to Watch Out For
Climate-smart agriculture (CSA) is an attempt to transform the agri-food systems around the world towards more sustainable and climate-resilient practices. The concept is in accordance with the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris agreement and is necessary to maintain the world’s agricultural needs in the near future to sustain life on earth. CSA relates to farming on and off-land but goes beyond that and addresses the potential of incorporating new technologies, policies, institutions, and investments.
Currently, there are almost 8 billion people living on our planet that need to eat and drink every day and are reliant on earth’s resources. Within the next 20 years, this number is estimated to increase every year and will likely reach 9.2 billion by 2040. It has become clear that to maintain our standard of living we need to increase resource-use efficiency.
Daily diets vary considerably around the world; however, experts believe that grain alone makes up 45% of the produce being consumed. Dairy, Eggs and Meat are responsible for 17% of the world’s everyday diet. Agriculture is the largest water user worldwide, with 70% of freshwater being used for irrigation (National Geographic, 2019).
Conserving water and protecting our oceans are key in sustaining our way of life. Coral reefs, mangrove forests, and other oceanic plant life protects against eroding shore lives. Further, the oceans on our planet are not only home to many different species and a food source, but also help regulate the climate on earth.
In climate-smart agriculture land and water management plays a key role. Experts agree that to ensure a more productive and sustainable form of agriculture, new practices to effectively manage land need to be enforced globally. Examples of such methods are soil carbon sequestration or the restoration of peatlands and degraded lands (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2022).
Further, it is advised to integrate practices and take a more holistic approach. Integration of practices has shown to greatly reduce the pressure on resources and reduce the need for external inputs such as energy or fertilizers. Agroforestry or integrated crop and livestock production systems are great examples for an efficient use of resources and utilizing the natural cycle in nature to enforce sustainability. In Agroforestry the shade of trees lessens the heat stress on animals and further prevents overgrazing as well as curb land degradation. Integrated crop and livestock production systems are based on the idea to utilize the synergistic relationship between plant and animal systems.
A more sustainable way of crop production can also help mitigate climate change by avoiding the use of inorganic fertilizers and soil compaction or flooding to decrease methane emissions.
Currently, livestock is responsible for 14.5 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. However, rearranging supply chains, and feed- and manure management has the potential to reduce these emissions significantly. Climate-Smart Agriculture practices such as pasture management, zero grazing and grassland restoration are already starting to be enforced by farmers around the world and need to become the new standard.
Climate-smart agriculture also addresses the issue of waste management. According to the United States, Environmental Protection Agency 292.4 million tons of waste were generated all over the US in 2014 and ended up in landfills that are damaging to our environment. Every individual can do their part in recycling their waste and help save important energy and resources. Further, composting old fruits and vegetables can help return nutrients to the soil and promotes healthy plant growth.
Climate-smart agriculture can help us mitigate and adapt to climate change while also supporting sustainable development goals. In addition, climate-smart agriculture includes a wide range of practices such as agroforestry, conservation agriculture, land management, and water management. Implementing climate-smart agriculture can help us reduce greenhouse gas emissions, build resilience to climate change, and achieve sustainable development goals.