Foster Climate-Smart Agriculture

June 8, 2016


Photo: Curt Carnemark / World Bank Group

A growing global population and changing diets are driving up the demand for food. Production is struggling to keep up as crop yields level off in many parts of the world, ocean health declines, and natural resources—including soils, water and biodiversity—are stretched dangerously thin. One in nine people suffers from chronic hunger and 12.9 percent of the population in developing countries is undernourished. The food security challenge will only become more difficult, as the world will need to produce about 70% more food by 2050 to feed an estimated 9 billion people.

The challenge is intensified by agriculture’s extreme vulnerability to climate change. Climate change’s negative impacts are already being felt, in the form of reduced yields and more frequent extreme weather events, affecting crops and livestock alike. Substantial investments in adaptation will be required to maintain current yields and to achieve the required production increases

Agriculture is also a major part of the climate problem. It currently generates 25% of total greenhouse gas emissions. Without action, that percentage could rise substantially as other sectors reduce their emissions.

Producing More with Less

Climate-smart agriculture (CSA) is an integrated approach to managing landscapes—cropland, livestock, forests and fisheries--that address the interlinked challenges of food security and climate change. CSA aims to simultaneously achieve three outcomes:

1.    Increased productivity: Produce more food to improve food and nutrition security and boost the incomes of 75% of the world’s poor, many of whom rely on agriculture for their livelihoods.

2.    Enhanced resilience: Reduce vulnerability to drought, pests, disease and other shocks; and improve capacity to adapt and grow in the face of longer-term stresses like shortened seasons and erratic weather patterns.

3.    Reduced emissions: Pursue lower emissions for each calorie or kilo of food produced, avoid deforestation from agriculture and identify ways to suck carbon out of the atmosphere.

While built on existing knowledge, technologies, and principles of sustainable agriculture, CSA is distinct in several ways. First, it has an explicit focus on addressing climate change. Second, CSA systematically considers the synergies and tradeoffs that exist between productivity, adaptation and mitigation, in order to capitalize on the benefits of integrated and interrelated results.

Find out more about CSA basics, planning, financing, investing and more in the online guide to CSA developed in collaboration with the Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture, and Food Security (CCAFS) of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR):


The World Bank Group (WBG) is currently scaling up climate-smart agriculture and in its Climate Change Action Plan has committed to 100 percent of agricultural operations being climate-smart by 2019. The WBG portfolio will also increase its focus on impact at scale and be rebalanced to have a greater focus on adaptation and resilience. To enable these commitments, we are screening  all IDA projects for climate risks, and will continue to develop and mainstream metrics and indicators to measure outcomes, and account for greenhouse gas emissions in our projects and operations. These actions will help our client countries implement their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) in the agriculture sector, and will contribute to progress on the Sustainable Development Goals for climate action, poverty, and the eradication of hunger.

The World Bank Group also backs research programs such as the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), which develops climate smart technologies and management methods, early warning systems, risk insurance and other innovations that promote resilience and combat climate change.

For example, Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA) Country Profiles bridge a knowledge gap by providing clarity on CSA terminology, components, relevant issues, and how to contextualize it under different country conditions. The knowledge product is also a methodology for assessing a baseline on climate-smart agriculture at the country level (both national and sub-national) that can guide climate smart investments and development.


The Bank’s support of CSA is making a difference across the globe:

In Uruguay, the Sustainable Management of Natural Resources and Climate Change (DACC) project is supporting sustainable intensification through a number of initiatives including the establishment of an Agricultural Information and Decision Support System (SNIA) and the preparation of soil management plans.

The Morocco Inclusive Green Growth project supports the national green growth agenda by increasing the supply of agrometeorological information and facilitating the diffusion of new, resilience-building technologies such as direct seeders.

In Senegal, the West Africa Agricultural Productivity Program (WAAPP) and its partners have developed seven new high-yielding, early-maturing, drought resistant varieties of sorghum and millet. Released in 2012, these varieties are being widely diffused to farmers and show positive yield result.

In Ethiopia, the Humbo Assisted Natural Regeneration Project has helped restore 2,700 hectares of biodiverse native forest, which has boosted production of income-generating wood and tree products such as honey and fruit.

African farmers who have adopted evergreen agriculture are reaping impressive results without the use of costly fertilizers. Crop yields often increase by 30 percent and sometimes more. In Zambia, for example, maize yields tripled when grown under Faidherbia trees.