Controversies Over Climate-Smart Agriculture

Climate-smart agriculture is receiving more attention than ever now that agriculture is on the table at global climate talks (see previous blog post).

But critics from all over the climate change arena question climate-smart agriculture’s ability to be the three-point solution for food security, adaptation and mitigation its proponents claim it can be.

Bruce Campbell (Program Director, CCAFS) will explore some of the controversies surrounding climate-smart agriculture, adaptation and mitigation during the event “Which Way to Climate-Smart Agriculture?” on February 21 from 12:30pm – 1:30pm at IFPRI’s Washington, D.C. office.

To join us remotely simply click this link and join via Go-To-Meeting.

If you have a microphone, please be sure to mute it unless you are speaking.

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To Focus on Adaptation or Not to Focus on Adaptation?

That question could define the next decade of development in Mozambique.

Photo by Andrea Romero (IFPRI)

In their paper Everyday Realities of Climate Change Adaptation in Mozambique, Luis Artur and Dorothea Holhorst paint a disheartening picture of the current issues facing the vulnerable people of Mozambique.  A “lack of coherent strategy and leadership” due to the conflicting interests of development agencies and climate change programs has greatly diminished the government’s ability to respond effectively when natural disasters strike.

Artur and Holhorst believe adaptation measures could make great strides in protecting vulnerable Mozambicans but see actors at every level preventing progress. “Rather than displaying a unified concern to prepare the country for increasing disasters, national level actors . . . politicize adaptation and make it subject to bureaucratic competition,” explains Holhorst. Throughout the paper, readers see how this division among leaders fractures the entire relief system, resulting in uninformed interventions that mishandle already fragile floodplain communities.

But while the paper successfully draws attention to the inadequacy of current adaptation interventions and the damage done by disjointed leadership, it ultimately fails to recognize the importance of development initiatives for a fledgling country post civil war. On the surface, climate change adaptation solutions are exciting and almost irresistible, but focus on adaptation can take away from important development initiatives during a nation’s delicate developmental stages.

“Mozambique won’t see, or at least be able to detect, climate-change induced natural disasters for many years,” says Gerald Nelson (Senior Research Fellow, Environment and Production Technology, IFPRI). “Right now [Mozambique] needs to focus on recovering from the aftermath of the civil war. Spending time on climate change adaptation really just distracts from doing sustainable development.”

This begs the question: How developed does a nation need to be before it can focus on adaptation?

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Impact Evaluation Takes Center Stage for IFAD

This week IFAD has been seriously evaluating the organization’s ability to assess impact and maximize the effectiveness of development programs.

Click here to read more.

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IFAD Seminar Video on Impact Evaluation Methods Available

An important IFAD seminar organized to develop a “comprehensive strategy for evaluating and assessing the impact of development projects” was streamed live on January 31, 2012 at the IFAD webcasting site.

IFAD asked the question, “How can we use impact evaluation to assure effective use of resources for development?” You can access a copy of the recorded event by clicking here.

Watch as Maximo Torero (Markets, Trade, and Institutions Division Director, IFPRI) makes the case for a spectrum of evaluation not limited to the current trend of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) to establish a credible source of knowledge on what works and what doesn’t.

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Decreasing Vulnerability to Conflict in Arab Countries through Rural Development

If you missed the live stream of the IFAD-IFPRI Workshop presentation, Decreasing Vulnerability to Conflict in Arab Countries through Rural Development, a recording of the event can be viewed on the IFAD Webcasting Site by clicking here.

You may also view the PowerPoint presentation from the workshop below.


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Conflict vs Development in the Arab World

On January 19, a team from IFPRI’s Development Strategy and Governance Division will present research on the correlations between food security, poverty, and conflict in the Arab world. A live stream of the event will be available on the IFAD webcast site at 9:00am CET (+1GMT), or 3:00am EST (GMT -5). Archived video will also be made available following the event.

The IFAD-IFPRI Policy Seminar will be the first of an Arab development series, Decreasing Vulnerability to Conflict in MENA through Rural Development, and is part of the lead up to the international conference, Food Secure Arab World: A Roadmap for Policy and Research, taking place in Beirut, Lebanon, February 6-7, 2012.

The initial policy seminar will explore key elements for development in Arab countries and make recommendations on policy priorities, but even more intriguing are the links between development and conflict in Arab countries. Taking a close look at conflicts in relation to drought, the researchers will explore the how climate adaptation and rural development strategies might improve resilience to conflicts in countries like Somalia.

You can watch presentations by Clemens Breisinger, Jean Francois Maystadt, Olivier Ecker, and Perrihal Al-Raffai as they stream live by clicking here.

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Oversight: When Market Access Initiatives Go Wrong

Not long ago poor farmers in rural Angola were bringing a fresh harvest of beans and maize to market for the first time. Months earlier an extension service brought in the seeds and tools they needed to increase yields beyond the subsistence level, helping them generate a surplus they could sell to the market.  But soon they were faced with harsh reality.

The market was already flooded with the same exact crops they had pinned their new livelihoods on – no one was going to buy.

“It seems that everywhere you go, you hear stories like these,” explains Nicholas Minot, senior research fellow in IFPRI’s Markets, Trade and Institutions Division, “promotion of a commodity (often fruit, vegetable, or other perishable) and then the realization that there is no market nearby or that the market is flooded.”

The effort which aid organizations put in to researching region-specific crops and farming techniques is commendable; sustainable crop growth is essential for survival, and with the right seeds and tools resource-poor farmers have the opportunity to bring their crops to market.

However, when extension services swoop in to promote crops with great market potential but neglect to investigate the actual demand for those crops, they can actually cause farmers to lose money and be more reluctant to try new crops and farming methods.

In her doctoral thesis, Rural Realities between Crisis and Normality: Livelihood Strategies in Angola, 1975-2008, sociologist Hilde van Dijkhorst shows that aid frequently dominates the lives of the rural-poor, and how easily initiatives intended to alleviate hunger and poverty can actually be counterproductive.

Van Dijkhorst illuminates this issue with the case of the Angola farmers who brought new crops to a market, only to find it flooded and the prices too low to cover their costs. The extension service that helped these farmers failed to investigate what aid similar organizations had distributed to nearby towns. The results left farmers with plenty of crops to eat, but demand plummeted for everyone at market leading to greater poverty within the region.

Van Dijkhorst surmises that the habit to speed up assistance resulted in the oversight. If the extension service had spent more time analyzing the needs of the region, the lack of diversity could have been spotted and a more sustainable development solution found.

In today’s volatile economic climate this type of oversight can be devastating for development in resource-poor areas. Though market access is an essential component of poverty reduction, it is absolutely necessary for aid organizations and extension services to first receive extensive training in the analysis of marketing options so they can promote sustainable growth.

You can read a summary of Hilde van Dijkhorst’s thesis by clicking here.

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