The Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture (GACSA) is an organisation hosted by the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) with a vision to improve food security, nutrition and resilience in the face of climate change. It aims to catalyse and help create transformational partnerships to encourage actions that reflect an integrated approach to the three pillars of climate-smart agriculture: convening, connecting and communicating.
The GACSA 2023 forum was held from 4th-5th May at the Food and Agriculture Organisation’s headquarters in Rome, Italy, after a hiatus in in-person meetings due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The forum aimed to bring together different stakeholders in the agriculture industry to discuss Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA) practices and coordinate their efforts in promoting low-emission, nature-positive and food-secure agriculture through both public and private sector involvement. The forum was attended by a diverse group of stakeholders, including academics, donor agencies, farmer groups, GACSA regional alliances, intergovernmental organisations, NGOs, on-the-ground innovators, policymakers, and private sector representatives. This varied nature of the attendees ensured that the opportunities and challenges of transitioning climate-smart agricultural practices could be considered. The focus of the event was on the three cross cutting themes of youth, women and finance. In this blog post, we recap SRI-2030’s experience of the event.
The forum was co-chaired by Dr. Hans Hoogeveen from the Netherlands and Imelda Bacudo from the Philippines. The first day involved presentations by GACSA members on the work they are doing in relation to climate-smart agricultural practices. Presentations included Martien van Nieuwkoop from The World Bank, Michael Keller from the International Agri-Food Network (IAFN), Harry Hunter from NextGen Tek Consulting, Jesca Muzamhindo - a lecturer, and Rajeev Pandey from Millets for Health. These presentations did not shy away from the difficulty that a climate-smart agricultural transition presents. Humanity faces the challenge of feeding a projected 10 billion people without using more land, while lowering emissions, while improving climate resilience, without contributing to further water insecurity, while improving nutrition and while building human capital. No small task indeed! However the message of hope was that this is achievable - the proven agricultural methods of cultivation that will achieve these goals already exist, we just need to implement the appropriate measures through both the private and the public sector to achieve them. There are high costs that are associated with the transition, but there is a strong business case for this expenditure - with a high return on investment.
The second day of the forum focused on the work of GACSA and concentrated on capacity building, the Compass funding platform, and their shark tank competition. Capacity building referred to GACSA's planned launch of an e-learning platform and a CSA app, both aimed at increasing knowledge of CSA practices and implementation. The Compass funding platform aims to more easily link farmers to investors where there is a business case available for a switch to CSA. The shark tank is an innovation competition for young farmers with a grant prize to develop the innovation.
From the second day - focussed around what GACSA is doing it was evident that GACSA is willing to pull out all the stops with its assistance with the climate-smart agricultural transition. There is recognition that for the transition to take hold there must be involvement of the youth. The proposal of a funding platform, and an e-learning platform and farmer app show that GACSA realises that the transition requires funds, and that a potential hurdle for any transition is always the availability of knowledge.
SRI-2030’s first experience of GACSA was certainly a positive one. The role of connector and facilitator for climate-smart agriculture that GACSA plays is vital, and the fact that it is hosted by the Food and Agriculture Organisation gives it the respectability and power to get things done and engage with governments. Being a member of GACSA gives SRI-2030 access to policy representatives through the regional alliances, enables us to directly communicate with large players in the private sector and gives us an indirect connection to the FAO which opens doors for collaboration and knowledge sharing. The conversations that SRI-2030 had with farmers, donor agencies, representatives of industry, academics, farmer groups and intergovernmental organisations were interesting and produced new contacts, and insightful discourse.
However, the influence of large fertiliser companies which perpetuate the fallacy that agrichemicals are essential for food security is a possible threat to the effectiveness of GACSA in promoting sustainable and environmentally friendly agriculture. A switch to climate-smart agriculture seems largely to be against the business interests of companies such as these. The flexible definition of climate-smart agriculture which can include contrasting approaches (e.g. on the need to transition to organic agriculture) could create confusion on what is to be considered as CSA and facilitate the rise of approaches that are deleterious to the environment and humans.
In summary, the GACSA annual forum was enjoyable, informative and rewarding. SRI-2030 is privileged to be a member and honoured to have met such a diverse group of people and organisations that all have a common goal. SRI-2030 is already utilising the new connections and friendships made and is looking forward to the next GACSA annual forum.
The views represented in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the SRI-2030.