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A call for action at the right time

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Agriculture and food production are closely intertwined with climate. Ask any farmer about her or his main concerns: the weather is almost certain to be one of them. It will feature on the worry-list even more prominently in the future. The weather will become more erratic and extreme, making farming even more challenging. At the same time, agriculture, food production, and land use are also one of the main reasons for this trend. They account for roughly 25% of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.

The recent CCAFS report “Actions to transform food systems under climate change” is a manifesto for action. It outlines a roadmap for more sustainable, equitable, and resilient future food systems. The report identifies four focus areas for action:

  1. Reroute farming and rural livelihoods to new trajectories through conducive policies, markets, and rural investment
  2. De-risk livelihoods, farms and value-chains through early-warning systems, safety nets, bundled and aggregated services delivered through appropriate PPPs
  3. Reduce emissions from diets and value-chains
  4. Realign policies, finance, support to social movements, and innovation.

The document is an excellent synthesis of needed actions and a menu of options behind which to rally. All stakeholders should read it! Once digested, this report could be a spur for more coordinated multi-stakeholder collaboration. 

The Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture (SFSA) will be delighted to contribute, building on much of our relevant work.  For instance, we have pioneered value-sharing PPPs to develop climate-resilient crops. We’ve introduced affordable and reliable index-based weather insurance products to de-risk smallholders’ investment in improved inputs. We partnered with the World Bank to launch its BioCarbon Fund that created carbon credits from emission reductions derived from more sustainable farming practices. We are also catalyzing diverse and equitable seed systems to provide farmers with a greater choice of crops and varieties.

The CCAFS report appropriately calls for Research for the Development ecosystem for innovation. It notes (p. 35) that “the challenge is to make [such] resources available at scale” – a core pillar of SFSA’s strategy.

To achieve scale, sufficient ‘pull’ is just as important as the quality of the technical solution itself. Pull factors can include remunerative offtake markets, conducive policies, and other incentive systems that reward sustainable practices (or penalize unsustainable ones).

Aligned with these recommendations, we are developing a set of tools for systematic technology testing and transfer. We are also building delivery platforms to bundle products and services for delivery by young agri-entrepreneurs. Our focus includes access to inputs, offtake markets, and extension while reducing costs through digital delivery and de-risking financing.  We also continue to work on creating pull through appropriate incentive systems for sustainable farming. These include payment schemes for ecosystem services (PES, such as carbon credits), and smart, conducive policies, for example for better uses of subsidies and grants.

The CCAFS menu of recommended actions is ambitious. Translating it into successfully implemented initiatives on the ground remains a challenge. When ensuring locally appropriate customization, the ‘devil is in the detail’. We have recently launched a strategic initiative that will embed climate change resilience into every program in our portfolio. As part of this, we will reach out to CCAFS and other like-minded partners. With them, we aim to develop design guidelines and assessment frameworks that will enable us to contribute strongly to “actions to transform food systems under climate change.”

More to follow soon!