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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 and 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 address 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 the 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 Climate Change Action Plan as well as its 2025 Targets to Step Up Climate Action, 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 it 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 over 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 23,731.94 tons of CO2-eq and increased the soil carbon sink by 71,682.53 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, a project in Ceara successfully introduced pilots for the use of greywater for home-based productive activities in the livelihoods of the rural poor, and a climate-smart approach to water conservation.

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.

In Morocco, a project aims to strengthen climate resilience by accelerating the use of agrometeorological information, improved irrigation technologies and the use of renewable energy in food processing units.

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 Jordan, the World Bank is working with the government to prepare a climate-smart agriculture action plan in order to identify actions that boost CSA across key agro-ecological zones and major agricultural commodities, both in the form of investments as well as policies.

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 Nigera 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.

In Pakistan, the Bank is supporting communities that are highly vulnerable to climate change and facing challenges related to water use by rehabilitating community watercourses, introducing modern irrigation and other activities to boost their resilience.

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, 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 recently approved Sustainable Livestock Development Program-for-Results aims to transform the beef sector to help the environment. It will address issues of land degradation, biodiversity conservation, pollution control, and mitigation of GHG emissions along the value chain.

Last Updated: Oct 22, 2020