Towards climate resilient agriculture and food systems A critical assessment and alternatives to climate-smart agriculture
Executive Summary This briefing sets out the ACT Alliance EU position on what we believe are the best solutions to build climate resilient agriculture systems and meet the right to food for all in developed and developing countries. This position is based on our comparative analysis of the currently in vogue ‘climate-smart agriculture’ framework (CSA) versus the alternative frameworks of food sovereignty and agroecology.
Our analysis aims to assess which framework offers the best potential to build the adaptive capacities of small-scale producers, who play a key role in achieving just, sustainable and climate-resilient agriculture and food systems.1 It is framed by our values, which are rooted in the fundamental respect for the equality and dignity of all human beings and the understanding that poverty and vulnerability to climate change are primarily the consequence of politically and socially constructed systems that concentrate power in the hands of the few.
Our analysis shows that the climate-smart agriculture framework initially developed by the FAO and now promoted mainly by the Global Alliance on Climate-Smart Agriculture (GACSA), has failed to address the root causes of climate vulnerability and agriculture-based greenhouse gas emissions.
There are three major reasons for this failure: First, the GACSA-initiative is mainly driven by agri-business interests instead of those of small-scale and family farmers. Second, and partly explained by the dominance of agribusiness interests, the Alliance does not give primary consideration to agro-ecological solutions to climate resilience, despite the growing body of evidence showing the potential of these approaches to build climate resilience.
Thirdly, the Alliance has failed to tackle the structural causes that underlie both the vulnerability of the world’s smallholder food producers to climate change as well as the contribution of the industrial agricultural sector to climate change. Also, GACSA does not attempt to wean the current food system off its dependence on fossil energy.
Based on the analysis in this report, ACT EU Alliance believes that the climate-smart agriculture brand and GACSA, its main promoter, do not provide the guidance and leadership required for the radical transformation needed to fix a broken food system and implement the right to food for all while also mitigating and adapting to climate change.
Instead, the principles promoted by the food sovereignty and agroecological movements, which are holistic, ecologically sound, and socially just are the way forward to build climate resilience and transform the agricultural system, both of which are fundamental to achieving the global sustainable development goals outlined in Agenda 2030.
The agricultural production models promoted under the concepts of agroecology and food sovereignty are optimal for both climate change mitigation and adaptation given that they are locally adapted, diverse, use resources sustainably, offer decent livelihoods to smallholders and have the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to a far greater extent than conventional models. Therefore, these principles and models should be supported by climate funds.
We therefore recommend that:
Any bilateral and multi-lateral climate finance flows should support bottom up, communitydriven climate adaptation solutions.
Climate funds should not support technologies and approaches that increase the dependence of family and small-scale farmers on costly inputs.
The funds should prioritise support projects in line with principles of agroecology and food sovereignty.
Climate change mitigation initiatives in the agriculture sector should focus primarily on transforming and phasing-out the industrial agriculture system.
National mitigation and adaptation should respect a list of criteria to support transformational change towards agroecology, ensuring food security and sovereignty, restoring ecosystems and biodiversity, as well as defending human rights.