The Paris Agreement: a chance to put climate adaptation at the core of international development?
Climate change is real, it is happening and so is the Paris Agreement (December 2015) that entered into force on November 4th. The ratification of the agreement means governments agreed on legally binding limits to global temperature increase. A promising development as never before a treaty was ratified this quickly after signing. In comparison, the Kyoto Protocol (1997) took eight years to be ratified after signing. And the Kyoto Protocol was not exactly hardball.
The agreement is said to be the end of the fossil fuel era that defined the 20th century industrialisation. It is the start of a more resilient, low-carbon future. One that will affect all facets of our daily life as we know it in the industrialised countries.
Good news, but for those living in the developing countries the effects of climate change are already devastating. Record high temperatures, flooding and unpredictable weather patterns are increasingly affecting farmers’ and pastoralists’ lives. They are the ones at the frontline, they are the ones most vulnerable and they are the ones struggling to cope with the devastating effects of climate change.
Productivity declines are expected in agriculture, livestock, fisheries and forestry sectors worldwide. The regions that already face a high burden of poverty and food insecurity will be hit worst. A recent FAO report shows the scale of the problem climate change causes: up to 122 million additional people could be pushed into poverty by 2030.
In addition to developing mitigation strategies it is essential that we come up with effective adaptation solutions. Solutions that make these groups more resilient to these inevitable changes. And solutions that prepare them for the challenges ahead.
Increasing the resilience of vulnerable groups
So how do we properly address climate change? First and foremost we need to get a clear picture of where the highest risks can be expected in our value chains. In order to do this, SNV developed a climate risk assessment tool that combines both scientific and field data to identify these risks. Based on this assessment, targeted adaptation options are formulated to address the vulnerabilities identified and to increase the overall resilience of smallholders.
We integrate adaptation options throughout our interventions and target the variety of dimensions that make up resilience. For example, innovative climate information systems working with text messaging or mobile apps can help farmers and pastoralists anticipate changing weather conditions and take adequate measures.
Where possible, adaptation needs to be combined with mitigation. The right combination of crops, trees, animals, climate-smart management practices and technologies help create diverse, healthy farming systems. For farmers and pastoralists that means they are more resilient to changing weather conditions. At the same time, it offers opportunities for income diversification and sequester carbon.
To reap the benefits of such improved practices, farmers will have to be part of a sound market system. Creating market linkages and facilitating effective service delivery and finance options will help farmers become an integral part of productive and resilient value chains. Involving private sector partners in these efforts is key. They can help pilot and spread new technologies, products and services that are necessary to manage climate risks.
But if we want to achieve impact at scale we need to look beyond the farm and value chain level. Working at the landscape level helps to tackle competing goals, foster synergies across sectors and create the necessary supportive environment.
What does this look like in practice?
In Mali and Burkina Faso SNV works with innovative mobile applications that combine satellite and field data to provide pastoralists with reliable, tailored and timely information related to climate and market conditions. Think about the availability and quality of pastures, water resources, cattle concentration, areas to avoid (such as farm land or conflict zones), and livestock prices in nearby markets. Pastoralists can easily access this information on their mobile phones by consulting a call centre or receiving text messages. This enables them to better adapt to climate shocks and make better decisions on where to move with their herds and when to sell their livestock.
In Zambia, the Sustainable Integrated Land Management project stimulates the application of integrated soil fertility management and agroforestry practices. It creates diverse, resilient and productive farming systems that are better capable to deal with the increasing climate variability. This is underpinned by creating a strong agro-dealer network and extension services that can provide the smallholder farmers with the inputs, capacities and markets necessary to support these climate-smart practices in the long term.
In Vietnam SNV works closely with private sector partners to realise adaptation and mitigation benefits. Vietnam’s mangroves are essential in protecting the coastal population from climatic threats, such as storm surges and sea level rise. However, unsustainable shrimp production practices have led to the loss of half of the mangrove forests in the past decades. In our Mangroves and Markets project, we reverse this trend. We stimulate sustainable shrimp farming practices that contribute to mangrove restoration and strengthen local livelihoods. To achieve this we work with shrimp companies, smallholder farmers and public authorities. Together we strengthen the shrimp value chain, enhance smallholder productivity and incomes, and promote sustainable integrated mangrove-shrimp farming systems. To stimulate mangrove conservation, we support smallholders in obtaining organic certification and introduce innovative financing methods.
A call for making adaptation an integral part of development work
One cannot regard climate adaptation and development as separate issues. With climate change posing a great threat to alleviating poverty and reducing food insecurity around the world, it is essential that we all make adaptation an integral part of our work. At SNV, our approach to sustainable development puts emphasis on reducing the vulnerability associated with key climate risks and increasing the overall resilience of smallholder farmers. This will increase smallholders’ ability to respond to, recover from and thrive despite the variety of climate challenges that are coming their way.
SNV urges everyone to make this a priority!