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The “Whole Market” Approach to Climate-Smart Agriculture

Climate change now poses a systemic threat to millions of farmers around the world and the global food industry they support. In fact, a recent study estimates that a temperature increase of just 2 degrees Celsius would cause a reduction in the yield of essential food crops within the next 15 years, with yields falling by up to 25 percent by the second half of the century.

So how can we address such a challenging problem?

For TechnoServe, an implementer of Feed the Future climate-smart agriculture programs, one thing has become clear: a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. TechnoServe believes an integrated approach across the whole value chain holds promise for the kind of long-term change that’s necessary to address such a systemic threat.

The Farmer Level

Farmers are the backbone of any agricultural value chain. But they must have access to the training and tools they need to adapt to a changing climate without contributing to further global warming.

The Feed the Future-funded Agricultural Development and Value Chain Enhancement (ADVANCE) Project, currently in its second phase, helps farmers to access inputs and markets and to deal with an unpredictable climate and shifting economic conditions. Its first five-year phase helped 34,000 farmers in northern Ghana to more than double their yields and incomes. Its second phase, launched last year, aims to reach 100,000 additional farmers. Community trainers from TechnoServe provided instruction about soil management, the appropriate use of fertilizers, and seed varieties suited for the changing environment.

In Latin America, Feed the Future works with farmers like Ninfa Lanza, who travels two hours a day, six days a week to work on her farm, Arca de Esperanza (Ark of Hope), in the highlands of Honduras. Like many farmers, Ninfa is concerned about increasingly severe outbreaks of the devastating fungus coffee leaf rust, a likely result of a changing climate. Feed the Future worked with Nina and thousands of other farmers on best practices for preventing leaf rust: tracking the plants for signs of the disease, regulating humidity, weeding and pruning, and the responsible use of fertilizers and fungicides.

As a result, 3,100 coffee farmers are already using new agricultural techniques on 10,585 hectares of farmland. To reinforce this training, the project sent out text messages to these farmers with tailored information about protecting coffee.

In addition, these farmers were connected to specialty markets and financial institutions, further increasing their incomes and resilience against climate-related economic shocks like leaf rust. For her part, Ninfa decided to shift to producing organic coffee, and now works with the exporter Beneficio Santa Rosa, allowing her to sell her harvest as specialty coffee for the first time and increase her income by 50 percent. “With this momentum, I will move forward and prosper,” she says.

The Processor Level

Further up the value chain, processors can contribute in many different ways to a more climate-smart supply chain. One key area involves the problem of food spoilage.

Currently, more than a third of the food produced around the world is lost or wasted. Reducing food wastage would, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization, “not only avoid pressure on natural resources but also decrease the need to raise food production by 60 percent in order to meet 2050 demand,” helping to combat climate change.

With support from Feed the Future, TechnoServe works with Partners in Food Solutions (PFS)—a nonprofit consortium of leading food companies: General Mills, Cargill, Bühler and Royal DSM—to transfer technical expertise to African food processing companies.

Stronger Linkages for Stronger Value Chains

Ultimately, making these interventions sustainable in the long run involves working with the whole agricultural system to support climate-smart approaches. Farmers need greater access to training, markets and financial institutions, allowing them to reap higher incomes from their crops and increase their resilience to economic and climate shocks. And the private sector needs to be engaged and incentivized to invest in climate-smart approaches.

“Managing the effects of climate change will require close coordination among all actors in the agricultural value chain,” said Michael Elliott, CFA Project Director at TechnoServe. “Initiatives like CFA can not only help farmers and buyers work together on complex issues like climate change, but strengthen the whole value chain to improve resilience against these kinds of threats.”

TechnoServe is an implementing organization of Feed the Future. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

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