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. A 2020 report found that nearly 690 million people—or 8.9 percent of the global population—are hungry, up by nearly 60 million in five years. The food security challenge will only become more difficult, as the world will need to produce about 70 percent 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 increasing temperatures, weather variability, shifting agroecosystem boundaries, invasive crops and pests, and more frequent extreme weather events. On farms, climate change is reducing crop yields, the nutritional quality of major cereals, and lowering livestock productivity. Substantial investments in adaptation will be required to maintain current yields and to achieve production and food quality increases to meet demand.
The problem also works in reverse. Agriculture is a major part of the climate problem. It currently generates 19–29% of total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Without action, that percentage could rise substantially as other sectors reduce their emissions. Additionally, 1/3 of food produced globally is either lost or wasted. Addressing food loss and waste is critical to helping meet climate goals and reduce stress on the environment.
Achieving the Triple Win of CSA
Climate-smart agriculture (CSA) is an integrated approach to managing landscapes—cropland, livestock, forests and fisheries—that addresses the interlinked challenges of food security and accelerating climate change. CSA aims to simultaneously achieve three outcomes:
1. Increased productivity: Produce more and better food to improve nutrition security and boost incomes, especially of 75 percent of the world’s poor who live in rural areas and mainly rely on agriculture for their livelihoods.
2. Enhanced resilience: Reduce vulnerability to drought, pests, diseases and other climate-related risks and 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 absorb 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. Finally, CSA aims to capture new funding opportunities to close the deficit in investment.
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 CGIAR.
Climate-Smart Agriculture and the World Bank Group
The World Bank Group (WBG) is currently scaling up climate-smart agriculture. In its first Climate Change Action Plan (2016-2020), as well as the forthcoming update covering 2021-2025, the World Bank committed to working with countries to deliver climate-smart agriculture that achieves the triple win of increased productivity, enhanced resilience, and reduced emissions. In 2020, 52 percent of World Bank financing in agriculture also targeted climate adaption and mitigation.
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 projects for climate risks, and will continue to develop and use 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 (SDGs) for climate action, poverty, and the eradication of hunger.
The World Bank Group also backs research programs such as the CGIAR, which develops climate-smart technologies and management methods, early warning systems, risk insurance, and other innovations that promote resilience and combat climate change.
The Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA) Country Profiles bridge a knowledge gap by providing clarity on CSA terminology, components, relevant issues, and how to contextualize them under different country conditions. These profiles are 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 World Bank has also developed more than 10 Climate- Smart Agriculture Investment Plans (CSAIPs) for Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Lesotho, Mali, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Cote D’Ivoire, Morocco, and The Republic of Congo. The CSAIPs identify CSA investments totaling more than US$2.5 billion, with the potential to benefit over 80 million people across the covered countries.
Working Toward Resilience and Food and Nutrition Security, while Curbing GHG Emissions
The Bank’s support of CSA is making a difference across the globe:
In Afghanistan, the Bank is supporting the recovery of the agriculture sector by strengthening climate resilience and adaptation of the farming systems through improved crop, water and watershed management.
In Bangladesh, a project aims to boost the resilience of livestock farmers by improving animal health and addressing climate mitigation by improving emissions intensity and improving production efficiency, including improvements in feeding strategies, animal health, breeding, manure and waste management, as well as low-emission technologies for activities such as milk chilling and transport.
In China, a suite of projects representing US$755 million of World Bank investments supports resilient and lower-emissions agriculture practices and institutions. One project has helped expand climate-smart agriculture through better water-use efficiency on 44,000 hectares of farmland and new technologies that have improved soil conditions, and boosted production of rice by 12% and maize by 9%. More than 29,000 farmers’ cooperatives have reported higher incomes and increased climate resilience through this project. Another recently completed project has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 23,732 tons of CO2 equivalent and increased the soil carbon sink by 71,683 tons CO2.
Climate resilience is also being advanced in the Philippines, through a project that is improving the capacity of local government to better manage biodiversity conservation and fisheries resources.
In Uruguay, the Bank is supporting sustainable agricultural production through a number of initiatives, including the establishment of an Agricultural Information and Decision Support System and the preparation of soil management plans. Since 2014, CSA has been adopted on 2,946,000 hectares and 5,139 farmers have been supported to make their farms climate-smart by improving energy efficiency and soil-management capacity.
In Brazil, the country’s Sustainable Production in Areas Previously Converted to Agricultural Use Project (ABC Cerrado) tested approaches for agricultural extensions to promote low-carbon agriculture while boosting private profitability. From 2014 to 2019, the project provided technical assistance and training to 20,025 direct beneficiaries (20% female). These included producers and their families, participants in field days, and collaborators working to adopt sustainable land management practices on approximately 378,513 hectares. It is estimated that these practices are likely to contribute to the sequestration of 7.4 million tons of CO2 equivalent over the next 10 years.
The Colombia Mainstreaming Sustainable Cattle Ranching Project showed that through the adoption of silvopastoral systems (SPS), complemented by other landscape management tools, technical assistance and incentives, it is possible to deliver remarkable wins for farmers and the environment. Over the project’s 10 years (2010 to 2020), participating producers transformed 38,390 hectares of pastureland to SPS. Compared to production areas without SPS, milk productivity increased by about 25%, cost of milk production decreased by 9% per liter, animal stocking rate increased by 26%, and farmer’s income increased by as much as $523 per hectare per year
As a result of the Mexico Sustainable Rural Development project, 1,842 agribusinesses adopted 2,286 environmentally sustainable technologies that included renewable energy, energy-efficient technologies, sustainable waste management and biomass conversion.
The Morocco Green Generation Program-for-Results aims to increase the economic inclusion of youth in rural areas and the marketing efficiency and environmental sustainability of agri-food value chains. It will strengthen climate resilience across all four dimensions of food security: availability, access, stability, and utilization. Specifically, it will promote precision agriculture, improved extension services on CSA practices, and a pilot initiative to promote agro-ecology to improve climate resilience. The technical extension supports farmers’ adoption of additional climate-smart agriculture practices and will target 12,000 farmers.
In North Macedonia, the Agriculture Modernization Project will support the country’s efforts to contribute to the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) goals by implementing climate change adaptation and mitigation activities, as well as activities that will reduce GHG emissions in the agricultural sector.
The Yemen Desert Locust Response Project provides support for farm management approaches that enhance resilience of farms and landscapes to changes in climate and pests, while improving the capacity to monitor metrological data.
In Uzbekistan, the Bank is working with the government to facilitate a shift away from cotton and wheat monoculture toward a farming system that is more resilient to climate shocks–including horticulture–and applies climate-smart practices that improve soil health and reduce land degradation.
In Niger, a Bank-supported project that is specifically designed to deliver climate-smart agriculture aims to benefit 500,000 farmers and pastoralists in 44 communes through the distribution of improved, drought-tolerant seeds, more efficient irrigation, and expanded use of forestry for farming and conservation agriculture techniques. To date, the project has helped 336,518 farmers more sustainably manage their land and brought 79,938 hectares under more sustainable farming practices.
The Pakistan Punjab Irrigated Agriculture Productivity Improvement Program Project’s main objective is to improve productivity of water use in irrigated agriculture. The project contributes to increased agricultural production, employment, and incomes, higher living standards and positive environmental outcomes. As of 2019, high-efficiency irrigation systems have been installed covering 23,500 hectares, with the installation of a further 3,677 hectares in progress; 11,916 watercourses have been improved with the improvement of 1,220 in progress; 5,000 laser land-leveling units have been deployed and 621 ponds have been constructed. Half a million farm families are directly benefitting from the project, 5.7 million acres of farmland benefit from the improved water management, and more than 15,000 full-time jobs have been created.
In Kenya, the objective of the Climate Smart Agriculture Project is to increase agricultural productivity and build resilience to climate-change risks in smallholder farming and pastoral communities. This is done by scaling up climate-smart agricultural practices, strengthening climate-smart agricultural research and seed systems, and supporting agrometeorological, market, climate, and advisory services.
Starting in 2015, a Bank-supported project has been helping pastoralists adopt climate-smart agriculture in the Sahel—namely Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal. Interventions to improve animal health and rearing and promote more sustainable rangeland management are boosting productivity and resilience and helping to reduce emissions.
In Malawi, the Bank is promoting CSA by enhancing the resilience of farmers to increasing and persistent droughts and improving soil health for increased agricultural productivity and climate change adaptation and mitigation. About 140,000 farmers have adopted a range of CSA practices, while the soil health of nearly 28,000 hectares has been improved.
The Maharashtra Project for Climate Resilient Agriculture, which at US$420 million is one of the largest CSA projects the Bank has financed to date, is estimated to yield climate change improvements of US$386 million. As of June 2020, 309,800 project beneficiaries have adopted climate-smart agriculture practices, and 56,602 hectares of land have benefitted from improved irrigation and drainage technologies.
In Kazakhstan, the Sustainable Livestock Development Program-for-Results, which runs from 2021 to 2025, aims to facilitate a profound transformation of the beef sector in Kazakhstan to foster sustainability and climate-change mitigation throughout. It addresses issues of land degradation, biodiversity conservation, pollution control, and mitigation of GHG emissions along the value chain.
The West Africa Agricultural Productivity Program (WAAP) involves 13 countries and multiple partners, helping develop climate-smart varieties of staple crops, such as rice, plantains, and maize. Farmers also gain access to technologies such as efficient water-harvesting systems. As of July 2019, the project had directly helped more than 9.6 million people and more than 7.6 million hectares of land be more productive, resilient, and sustainable. Beneficiary yields and incomes have grown by an average of about 30%, improving food security for about 50 million people in the region.
Last Updated: Apr 05, 2021