Climate-Resilient Agriculture in South Asia: An analytical framework and insights from practice

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New approach puts theory of Climate-Resilient Agriculture into practice on the ground

  • Agriculture is one of the most climate vulnerable sectors of the economy.

  • Agriculture production is highly sensitive to extreme events such as floods and droughts, as well as long-term changes to rainfall and temperature that can lead to reduction in yields and shifts in cropping patterns.

  • The Action on Climate Today (ACT) programme has been working in South Asia and providing technical assistance to governments at the national and state level to enable Climate-Resilient Agriculture (CRA). Based on learning from the programme, ACT has developed a framework of practical entry points at the national and local level for operationalising CRA.

  • The framework for CRA targets the full agricultural process from farm to market, and considers both on-farm and off-farm options.

South Asia has a population of roughly 1.75 billion people, 25% of whom fall below the international poverty line,1 and 70% live in rural areas of whom the majority, especially women, rely on agriculture for their livelihood. Despite being predominantly agrarian, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal are net importers of food. Climate change adds further stress to this highly challenging socio-economic situation. Climate change, in the form of increased temperatures, erratic precipitation, uncertain seasons and increased intensity and frequency of extreme weather events, is expected to exacerbate food security challenges by impacting food production, disrupting supply chains and raising food prices.

Since 2014 the Action on Climate Today (ACT) programme has been actively working in five South Asian countries – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan – to help national and sub-national governments mainstream adaptation to climate change into development planning and delivery systems. ACT has championed Climate-Resilient Agriculture (CRA) as an approach to increasing the resilience of agricultural systems on which billions rely. CRA is a subset of Climate-Smart Agriculture which has a broader focus that includes interventions to mitigate Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHGs).

The ACT learning paper introduces a framework of practical entry points at the national and local level to operationalise CRA. The framework targets the full agricultural process from farm to market with the following entry-points for increasing resilience:

  • Policy and institutions;

  • Finance;

  • Information and knowledge management;

  • Technology and asset management.

The paper explores these entry-points through examples of CRA supported by the ACT programme. It also identifies and discusses the challenges and knowledge gaps that currently exist in interacting and working with governments and organisations on CRA and a set of overarching lessons from the programme.

South Asia will face increased warming, increased extreme temperatures (including heat waves), increased incidences of extreme precipitation and sea level rise as a result of climate change. This in turn carries the potential for social unrest, economic downturn and political upheaval and threats to national and local food security. Therefore, there is an urgent need to scale up climate resilient agriculture across South Asia. ACT’s framework provides a range of practical entry-points that can operationalise and scale-up CRA across the region.