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A Look at Climate Smart Tools in Agritech

by Sunday Precious
Climate smart tools in agriculture

The issue of climate change is of utmost importance and requires immediate attention. As a result, the introduction of climate smart tools in Agritech has become necessary. 

Over the years, global warming has rapidly increased due to the emission of greenhouse gases leading to various unpalatable climate changes. Out of these greenhouse gases being released to the atmosphere daily, the global agrifood system amounts to one-third of all emissions. 

This goes to show how much agricultural advancement can affect climate change if not properly practised. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the global food demand is estimated to increase to feed a projected global population of 9.7 billion people by 2050. Traditionally, this increase in population naturally means a simultaneous increase in food production which has been linked to agricultural expansion, and unsustainable use of land and resources. 

In response to these challenges, the concept of Climate-smart Agriculture (CSA) has emerged as a holistic approach to end food insecurity and promote sustainable development while addressing climate change issues. In this article, we will be considering everything you need to know about CSA and various climate smart tools in Agritech that are taking the lead. 

The Challenge: Agriculture In a Changing Climate

Agriculture depends on natural resources to strive. This makes the sector highly vulnerable to climate change as it affects the productivity of farms in various ways. Some examples include:

  1. Disruption in Growing Seasons: Normally, each crop has a particular season it strives in. For instance, vegetables do better during the rainy seasons. However, due to this disruption, there is an increase in extreme dry seasons, which means that farmers growing vegetables will have to spend more money on irrigation or risk losing all their produce.
  2. Unpredictable rainfall patterns: While plants need water to grow, the increase in unpredictable rainfall and more frequent floods due to climate change can cause soil erosion and lower agricultural productivity.
  3. Unusually Dry seasons: Another impact of climate change on agriculture is rising temperatures, protracted droughts, and severe heat waves. Instead of the normal dry seasons experienced in Africa, some areas suffer long dry spells without a single drop of rainfall affecting productivity and even leading to desert encroachment putting food security at risk.

The Role of Agriculture in Climate Change 

While agriculture is one of the sectors highly affected by climate change, it is also a major culprit and contributor to negative climatic conditions. Unsustainable agricultural practices such as tillage, deforestation, bush burning e.t.c have led to environmental degradation and greenhouse gas emissions which are a major cause of global warming.  

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Currently, human-caused CO2 emissions come from two major sources: fossil fuels and land use change and management. While fossil fuels are the primary source, land use and management are projected to contribute to approximately 11% of annual worldwide CO2 emissions. 

This provides a significant mitigation potential that climate smart agriculture (CSA) can address. This strategy focuses on changing agricultural practices to withstand a wide range of environmental changes, such as droughts, floods, and rising temperatures. By practising CSA and utilizing climate-smart tools, farmers can enhance their resilience in the face of uncertain and adverse climate impacts to ensure long-term food production and livelihood security. 

According to a report by WEF, agritech solutions have the potential to reduce environmental impact of farming by 30% within the next decade. 

Climate-Smart Agritech: A Solution-Oriented Approach

Everything you need to know about climate smart agriculture
Source: Farmingfirst

Climate-smart agriculture refers to agricultural approaches that help to increase farm productivity and incomes, create crop resilience, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions – all equitably and sustainably.

CSA encourages the integration of ancient and modern knowledge and technologies to develop agricultural techniques that are resistant to the effects of global warming. Farmers who use climate-smart agriculture practices increase their revenue while simultaneously contributing to climate change mitigation and global food security.

There are three main objectives of climate smart agriculture:

  • Productivity: Climate-smart agriculture aims to improve crop and livestock production as well as farmers’ profitability in an environmentally sustainable manner. 
  • Resilience: CSA tries to protect agricultural infrastructure from the harmful effects of global warming. This comprises adopting steps to reduce vulnerability to climate-related hazards such as floods, droughts, and excessive heat.
  • Mitigation: Lastly, the key goal of climate smart agriculture is to reduce the number of greenhouse gases produced in the environment due to farming activities, including methane emissions from livestock, paddy rice cultivation, and the use of synthetic fertilizer.

To achieve these objectives, CSA makes use of climate smart tools and practices. We will be considering 9 of these innovations and how they fit into the three objectives of climate smart agriculture. 

Climate Smart Tools and Practices Improving Productivity

Climate smart tools to increase productivity.
Source: Rural 21

The first objective of climate smart agriculture is to increase the production of higher-quality food without putting an additional strain on natural resources. This is expedient as agriculture serves as a major source of income, especially for 75 per cent of the world’s poor who live in rural areas and mainly rely on agriculture for their livelihoods.

Here are 3 climate-smart tools and practices that help increase productivity. 

1. Precision Irrigation: Precision irrigation employs sensors and data analysis to give the exact amount of water needed, decreasing waste and increasing growth. Precision irrigation, drip irrigation, and rainwater collection are all examples of climate-smart agriculture technologies that can be used to improve water efficiency while lowering environmental impact. In times of drought or uncertain precipitation, these methods ensure crops receive enough water while reducing waste.

2. Land & Soil Health Management: Cover cropping and compost application improve soil structure, fertility, and water retention, resulting in increased crop growth and less erosion. Climate-smart tools like soil sensors, national food security early warning systems, land cover, and soil mapping technologies analyze data and create predictive solutions related to environmental protection, climate change, and biodiversity protection. 

Currently, FAO is assisting countries in the Asia-Pacific region to develop an enriched high-resolution/detailed land cover (LC) database and soil information systems which provide base information for natural resource use planning and management.

3. Nutrient Management with Drone Technology: Precision fertilizing using Drone technology, is a good example of a climate smart nutrient management tool that increases soil fertility while reducing nutrient runoff and the emissions of greenhouse gases from the excessive use of synthetic fertilizers. When nutrients are managed in this environmentally conscious way, there is less waste and greater efficiency in their use. Drones map nutrient deficiencies in a field, enabling targeted application of fertilizers, reducing waste, optimizing crop nutrition, and minimizing environmental pollution.

Climate Smart Tools and Practices Building Resilience

Climate Smart Tools and Practices Building Resilience. Climate smart agriculture.
Source: ICT works

The second aim of climate smart agriculture is to build resilience and reduce plants’ vulnerability to droughts, pests, diseases and other climate-related risks and shocks. By building resilience, crops can grow in the face of longer-term stresses like increased seasonal variability and more erratic weather patterns.

3 climate-smart tools in CSA for building resilience include: 

1. Climate-Smart Crop Varieties: Climate change poses a significant threat to global food production, especially in regions with harsh climatic conditions. However, growing crop varieties that are more resistant to temperature and extreme rainfall can help farmers mitigate its impact. Climate-smart agricultural practices, such as selective breeding of crop varieties with local environment-appropriate traits, can improve production stability and reduce sensitivity to climatic threats. 

For instance, Nigeria’s new cassava variety called “Game Changer” is drought-tolerant and produces more tubers than ordinary cassava stems. These new crop types are more tolerant to drought, heat stress, and pests and diseases, which helps farmers maintain production in harsh regions.

2. Drought and Flood Management Technology: Climate-smart tools for managing drought and flooding are critical for dealing with the increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events. Soil moisture monitors, remote sensing, and weather forecasts enable appropriate irrigation scheduling during droughts. 

Additionally, flood control technology like early warning systems, flood mapping, and resilient infrastructure designs, reduce the harmful effects of droughts and floods on agriculture, water resources, and communities. These tools help to boost your farm’s overall resilience to climate-related crises.  

3. Conservation Agriculture: Conservation agricultural practices used to build resilience to climate change include no-till and reduced-tillage cultivation, using cover crops to keep the area constantly covered, and rotating crops. By adopting these sustainable farming techniques, farmers can enhance the resilience of their agricultural systems to climate variability, while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions and preserving natural resources.

Climate-Smart Tools and Practices to Mitigate Greenhouse Gases Emission

Climate-Smart Tools and Practices to Mitigate Greenhouse Gases Emission
Source: Dreamstime

The last objective of climate smart agriculture is to mitigate the increase in greenhouse gases and ensure sustainable farming. 3 climate smart practices that help to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases include: 

1. Integrated Pest Management{IPM): This practice uses a combination of techniques to manage pests, minimizing reliance on harmful pesticides and promoting a healthy agricultural ecosystem. This reduces risks to human health and the environment while still keeping pests under control. Some examples of IPM practices include the use of biological predators to reduce pest infestation. By using IPM, fewer greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere. 

2. Agroforestry: Agroforestry is a climate-smart agriculture and forestry practice that involves planting trees alongside crops or livestock. Trees provide shade and windbreaks, as well as increase nutrient cycling for their “neighbours”—plants. Trees also help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen into the atmosphere. Furthermore, agroforestry increases biodiversity and soil fertility, and it can be used to build more robust agricultural landscapes.

3. Variable Rate Fertilisation: Using the proper quantity of fertiliser at the right time and place can improve crop yields while reducing nutrient losses and greenhouse gas emissions. Variable rate fertilisation can be accomplished by using soil testing, remote sensing, and precision agriculture technology to adjust fertiliser delivery to the individual demands of each crop.

Reasons Why Climate Smart Agriculture Adoption is Slow in Africa

There are various reasons why climate smart agriculture is still taking a back seat in Africa. Some of them include; 

  • Lack of Education: Most African farmers are not exposed to recent innovations in agriculture due to illiteracy. Farmers are often unaware of the benefits of CSA and how to implement it efficiently.
  • Limited Access to Finance, Insurance, and Markets: Farmers must secure financing before investing in new CSA technologies and practices. Lack of access to money, insurance, and markets can make it difficult to adopt this innovation
  • Inadequate Infrastructure and Institutional Support: The success of climate smart agriculture is dependent on supporting infrastructure and institutions. This includes irrigation systems, storage facilities, and organisations that can offer help and advice. In Africa, rural farmers lack access to many of these listed infrastructures. 
  • High Expenses and Risks: The initial expenses of implementing new technologies and techniques can be a substantial barrier for farmers. Also, the perceived risk of trying out new practices often deter farmers from taking the first step. 

Solutions to Challenges of Climate Smart Agriculture Africa

The solutions to the challenges listed above include: 

  • Capacity Building: Building the capacity of farmers through properly trained extension agents. They can educate farmers through demonstrations, farmer-to-farmer interactions, and mass media on the importance of climate smart agriculture.
  • Financial and Technical Support: The government should provide financial support for farmers to implement climate-resilient technologies and innovations, including subsidies, finance, insurance, market linkages, and access to digital platforms. 
  • Encourage Participation of Marginalised Organisations: Enhance the participation and empowerment of women and marginalized groups in the planning and implementation of CSA, e.g. strengthen their representation in CSA organizations, equal access to resources and opportunities, and address their specific needs and interests.

The Future of Farming: Embracing Climate-Smart Agriculture 

Climate-smart agriculture (CSA) is not only an environmental responsibility but also a long-term solution to the problems that currently affect the agricultural sector. By adopting climate-smart tools and practices, you can unlock significant economic and environmental benefits while also ensuring food security.

The future of agriculture lies in the adoption of climate smart agriculture

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