Why has this Alliance been established?

The reality of food insecurity is being felt throughout Africa today. According to the FAO, Sub-Saharan Africa is the region with the highest prevalence of hunger in the world, with one person in four undernourished. With increasingly erratic and severe weather patterns, and a growing African population (projected to double by 2050 to 2.1 billion), sustainably improving agricultural productivity will be essential to meet the increasing demand for food. At the same time, many smallholder farmers are extremely vulnerable to the effects of climate change, as they are reliant on agricultural, forestry and other land use (AFOLU) practices for their livelihoods. As such, these AFOLU practices, and the communities reliant on them, need to adapt to the effects of climate change. AFOLU practices are a strong contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and also provide a significant opportunity for their reduction. It is proposed that when appropriate CSA approaches and techniques are adapted to local circumstances in vulnerable regions in Africa, and adopted on a large-scale, they could have a significant positive effect on: overall food production and the nutritive quality of diets; increasing the resilience of vulnerable groups in rural communities; and reducing the likely impacts of climate change.

Given the enormity of the challenge, the Alliance has formed to combine its implementation experience and lessons learnt on the ground, evidence-based learning, research, outreach to constituencies and influencing potential to support the scaling of CSA across the region. It is a multi-sectorial implementation partnership that works with Governments, development partners, and all relevant stakeholders to deliver tangible benefits on the ground.

How will the Africa CSA Alliance contribute to the overall development goals for Africa?

The African Union (AU) has committed to a goal of supporting the uptake and practice of CSA by 25 million African farm households by the year 2025. It anticipates achieving this through a number of initiatives, with this Alliance being a significant implementing platform contributing to this overarching goal and collaborating with other activities such as the work of CAADP and FAO on the NAIPs, and the work of the Regional Economic Communities. The Alliance has committed to supporting at least 6 million farm households by 2021, contributing to the AU goal and is working with National Governments and local partners to develop and implement CSA programs on-the-ground that promote the adoption of climate smart practices and approaches by smallholder farmers.

NEPAD as the convener of the Alliance ensures that its strategic framework encapsulates all of the CAADP framework’s key goals of food security, livelihoods and economic development, climate change, and advocacy and policy development. These goals work to empower farm households, whilst building towards national and regional targets for Africa’s development. Further, as a founding member and convener of this Alliance, the representation of the African Union through NEPAD will ensure that in all activities, the Alliance continues to align with, and work towards, Africa’s wider development goals.

What is ‘Climate-Smart Agriculture’ (CSA) from the Alliance’s perspective?

As a basis, the Alliance generally follows the key principles of the Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO) definition of CSA (2010) adapted by the Alliance to reflect a rights-based approach and the African context, including a pronounced focus on adaptation and sustainable livelihood improvement for smallholder farmers, and disadvantaged groups within Africa’s rural communities. This definition is composed of three main pillars:

  1. sustainably increasing agricultural productivity and incomes;
  2. adapting and building resilience to climate change; and
  3. reducing and/or removing greenhouse gases emissions, where appropriate.

In addition to the above pillars, the following principles are key to the definition and understanding of CSA that the Alliance uses:

  • food security and nutrition as core components of the first pillar of CSA – beyond productivity and income.
  • CSA should be considered in a holistic and integrated manner in order to maximise tangible benefits experienced by smallholder farmer households.
  • CSA should be contextualised considering social, economic, biophysical and institutional context in shaping a holistic approach. Additionally, vulnerability and impacts must be assessed at the most local level possible.
  • CSA needs to be contextualised to the socio-economic, political, cultural and environmental factors unique to geographical contexts.
  • CSA should provide short-term returns whilst also encouraging a long-term perspective on climate change.
  • Emphasis should be on building adaptive capacity, not simply promoting technologies or practices, crops or animals that are more resilient to climate impacts. Building adaptive capacity – the capacity of small-scale food producers to access resources, planning and policy processes, weather information, or more diversified livelihood options – is critical.
  • CSA isn’t necessarily ‘new’ per say, and should enable communities to identify and scale relevant/context appropriate solutions, already achieving “triple wins”, in line with the principles outlined here.

The Alliance anticipates that the definition of CSA will continue to evolve as CSA is practiced and understanding of CSA, experiences and lesson learnt are more developed.

What are the benefits of ‘Climate-Smart Agriculture’ (CSA)?

CSA offers multiple benefits, which include: significant potential to enhance food and nutrition security for all people at all times, taking account of the need for adaptation in response to current and near term effects of climate change and, where in the interests of smallholder farmers, mitigation to reduce the future threats to global food security and limit the cost of future adaptation efforts. CSA activities also offer opportunities to farm households to increase their incomes and livelihoods through enhanced agricultural practices, as well as providing better market access. Such benefits have flow-on effects to all forms of sustainable development, including enhanced health, further economic development, and even better access to education for families.

What makes the Africa CSA Alliance different from a traditional development approach?

As a collaborative partnership between INGOs, international and regional technical organisations, regional African bodies, African civil society and governments, the Alliance is working to ensure that a climate lens is used in development–not only improving food security, but helping smallholder farmers to be more resilient and safeguard themselves from climate shocks and changes in the future. The Alliance ensures that local, regional and international approaches to development are combined to create the most relevant, appropriate and effective approach to supporting the adoption and practice of CSA across Africa. The Alliance’s approach is:

  • Farmer driven and large-scale: The Alliance seeks to draw on the capacity and experience of multiple stakeholders to support the design and implementation of large-scale programmes. It will engage all levels of the international, national and local communities – from multilateral organisations, regional and local governing bodies, to indigenous farming communities and smallholder farm households across Africa – and use participatory farmer-led approaches to identify and address the most pressing needs of rural communities. The work of the Alliance will also pay particular attention to gender-based inequities in agriculture and climate change policy and practice.
  • African-owned: The African Heads of State recognized the importance of CSA in the Malabo Declaration (June 2014) which sets a goal of 25 million farm households practicing CSA by 2025 (referred to as ‘Vision 25×25’). The African Union’s New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) is supporting implementation of CSA in Africa through the Agriculture Climate Change Programme and other related initiatives. An integral part of this programme is this Alliance, which through close collaboration with RECs, national Governments and local communities, will support the scale-up of CSA on the ground.
  • Cross-sectoral: Enhancing farmers’ livelihoods requires addressing multiple factors, so the approach of the Alliance is multifaceted – integrating sustainable solutions to target various aspects of farm household vulnerability such as food security, economic development and income generation, gender inequality, climate vulnerability and adaptation, as well as advocacy to ensure there is national and regional support to sustain the impact of CSA.
  • Contextual: Although the Alliance will function under an overarching strategy, reflecting Africa’s key development goals as defined in the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) and the respective National Agriculture Investment Plans (NAIPs), it acknowledges that each community is different, and thus requires a context-specific approach in each CSA programme and project. The Alliance will adopt an inclusive approach to programme design, collaborating closely with local NGOs, civil society (including farmer groups) and smallholder farmers to develop contextually appropriate approaches which address local challenges and optimally support smallholder farm families across Africa.
  • Evidence-based: The Alliance will endeavor to create as much impact as possible through actions that influence policies that promote the adoption of CSA practices. While the Alliance will use fact-based evidence to design its own programmes, it will also focus on generating robust scientific evidence to strengthen evidence-based pro-poor CSA policies and programmes that are responsive to local, national and regional realities and priorities. Information and knowledge generated from the Alliance’s work will be shared with private and public policy and decision makers to stimulate CSA investments. The Alliance will also endeavor to generate tools that are relevant and useful not only for policy makers, but also for other CSA stakeholders and constituents.

What is the primary focus of the Africa CSA Alliance?

Supporting smallholder farm households across Africa is the primary focus of the Alliance, with a particular focus on the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, food insecurity and extreme poverty.  In many of their field activities, the Alliance iNGOs specifically engage the poorest farmers in the community, who often have the smallest plots, the least fertile soils, are located far from markets and extension services, and are short of labour. The approach of the Alliance is to draw on the grassroots extension networks, technical and implementing experience of Alliance members, and the strategic vision, plans and political will of national Governments, to collaboratively develop contextually appropriate and gender transformative programmes, using participatory approaches which include representation from the most vulnerable groups, thereby providing large-scale support and increased equity amongst Africa’s smallholder farm households.

Is the Africa CSA Alliance inclusive of farmers groups and local Civil Society Organisations?

Yes, most definitely. Various African civil society organisations and farmer groups have been engaged, and continue to be engaged, in the development of the Alliance. The Pan-African Farmers’ Organisation (PAFO) is a member of the Alliance’s Steering Committee, ensuring the needs and collective farmers’ voice is central to the Alliance’s approach. Through existing programs, members continually engage and listen to smallholder farmers to ensure a deep understanding of both the challenges farmers face and their unique context.  At the national level in the Alliance fast-start countries, Steering Committees have been formed comprising a range of key local farmers groups and CSOs.

Central to the founding principles of the Alliance is a genuine grassroots approach. During planning and implementation of Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA) projects, there is extensive engagement, consultation and collaboration at the grassroots level with local NGOs and civil society partners, farmer groups, community-based organisations and potential beneficiaries. All Alliance programmes incorporate farmer-centred participatory approaches to agriculture and livelihood development, in order to empower households and farming communities across Africa. Further, the Alliance seeks to raise the collective voice of the farmers in partnering with governments and decision-making bodies to increase institutional capacity and create an enabling policy environment to support local farmers in CSA.

Is CSA a way to get GMOs into Africa?

No. With reference to the FAO CSA Sourcebook, you will note that the emphasis is on maintaining and/or improving genetic diversity as a means to foster adaptation and resilience to climate variability and change. The only mention of biotechnology in genetic engineering is in one line of table 8.3, where they actually score lower in terms of their degree of CSA compliance than most of the other practices listed.

Is CSA a way to get carbon sequestration into agriculture?

No, CSA in the Africa context sees carbon sequestration is a potential co-benefit of improved food security and increased resilience, and only where contextually appropriate. Greenhouse gas emission reduction cannot be at the expense of improved food security, sustainable increases in agricultural incomes, or better adapted and more resilient production systems. CSA practices that improve food security and resilience often also store carbon in the agricultural landscape. Additional above and below ground carbon in the landscape is an important factor in improving soil water holding capacity, soil fertility and biodiversity, and reducing vulnerability to drought and even flooding. Those practices which sequester the most carbon in the landscape are often also those which are most important for improvements in food security and resilience – the triple win.

Is CSA just a front for industrial agriculture?

Not at all. If you refer to the FAO CSA Sourcebook, you will note that the principles of Climate-Smart Agriculture are not scale-dependent. In principle, they can apply to practices used on both large and small scale farms. However, the 3 criteria used to evaluate specific practices in terms of the degree to which they might be considered to be CSA compliant may mean that it is more difficult for large scale farms to be CSA-compliant. This is particularly true of the first dimension, which is that CSA practices contribute to improved food security and nutrition by sustainably increasing agricultural productivity and incomes. This is a necessary condition for something to be considered as “climate-smart”. The same applies for the second dimension, where CSA practices must be better adapted and more resilient to climate variability and change. This too is a necessary condition for something to be considered as “climate-smart”. “Industrial agriculture” may very well fail to meet CSA criteria on either of these dimensions. Further, the Africa CSA Alliance’s definition of CSA, which has been adapted for the African context, focusses particularly on smallholder farm applications.

What will be the Africa CSA Alliance’s approach to implementation?

Within each country where the Alliance operates, we first set up a national partnership between government ministries, international NGOs, national civil society, technical partners and other relevant stakeholders. The approach to implementation is inclusive, so ACSAA members will engage collaboratively with all relevant stakeholders in order to most effectively achieve its goals. A coordinated approach to CSA will appropriately address the most pressing needs and vulnerabilities of African smallholder farmers, leveraging the respective strengths, capacities and existing programmes of ACSAA members and other sectorial actors.

How is the Africa CSA Alliance governed?

The ‘founding’ Africa CSA Alliance members have established a Steering Committee, which consists of a representative from the convening organisation NEPAD, and each of the existing member organisations – CRS, CARE International, Concern Worldwide, Oxfam, World Vision, CGIAR, FANRPAN, FAO, FARA, COMESA and PAFO. Steering Committee members are responsible for the administration, oversight and functioning of the Alliance, as well as guiding, coordinating and supporting the development of regulatory and strategic frameworks and tools.

The success of the Alliance depends greatly on broader collaboration and partnering across sectors. As such, it is the Alliance’s intent to include other relevant stakeholders across the private, public and civil society sectors which subscribe to the foundational principles of the Alliance and play an active role towards attaining the Alliance’s objectives. Mechanisms for participation in the Alliance are currently under development and will be shared once they’ve been developed.

At the country-level, the planning and implementation of activities is managed by a National Steering Committee, which will always include representation from the relevant national Government, African Union, technical and research organisations, and the most capable and nationally-relevant implementation organisation (including Alliance iNGO members and non-member organisations).  The National Committee will adopt an inclusive approach, and work collaboratively with all relevant stakeholders – including other NGOs, extension agencies, farmer organisations and local CBOs – with the goal of identifying and working with the best implementing partners in the national context.

Is there a link between the Africa CSA Alliance (ASCAA) and the Global Alliance on Climate-Smart Agriculture (GACSA)?

There is no formal link between the ACSAA and the Global Alliance on Climate-Smart Agriculture (GACSA); the Africa CSA Alliance is not a member of GACSA. However, some individual members the ACSAA are members of GACSA.

The two entities differ in structure, function, focus and approach. The ACSAA was set up to work with governments, national civil society and other partners to support and catalyse the grassroots scaling out of promising CSA approaches in Africa.

In contrast, the GSCSA is NOT an initiative that will directly fund or implement any CSA projects or programmes. Rather, the Global Alliance on Climate-Smart Agriculture (GACSA) aspires to be a voluntary and transparent association of members committed to fostering sustainable change in agricultural practices. Ultimately, the Global Alliance would like to function as a “clearing house” or platform for promoting partnerships, actions and policies, and sharing lessons and knowledge which can support an integrated approach to the triple win of CSA.  This is a critical distinction between the ACSAA and GACSA, in that the ACSAA will be designing and implementing programmes.

In addition, ACSAA aims to increase food and nutrition security, with a particular focus on smallholder African farmers and the direct support of ‘on-the-ground’ projects and programmes—GACSA does not limit its focus to smallholder farming.

For further information please see the following white paper: Link between the African & Global CSA Alliances