Climate Change and Agriculture Policies

How to mainstream climate change adaptation and mitigation into agriculture policies?

Advanced Draft of Policy Guidelines

These guidelines have been prepared by FAO to support national policymaking in agriculture, rural development and food security in light of climate change. They are intended to:

  1. assist in the formulation of agricultural and rural development strategies, policies and programmes that increase the resilience and/or performance of the agriculture sector of developing countries faced with changing climate and weather conditions, by incorporating climate change adaptation in agricultural policies relating to production, livelihoods and the use of water, land and capital resources; and

  2. help policy makers to take advantage of the potential for climate change mitigation within the sector (carbon, environment and income generation benefits) by choosing adaptation measures which also serve the aim of mitigation

Agricultural adaptation to a changing climate is needed in all countries, and many have lessons for incorporating adaptation into agricultural policies to share. Invariably, adaptations to climate change in agriculture have not been (and are not likely to be) undertaken in response to climate change alone or in isolation. The various lists of potential adaptations to climate change are all strategies, management methods or technologies that have been employed.

Key features for integrating climate change adaptation into agricultural development initiatives are that they increase the resilience and/or performance of the agriculture sector, they fit within the development priorities and processes of the country and they are accepted, supported and promoted by the country‘s decision-makers and stakeholders.

Agriculture also contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, and has a role to play in climate change mitigation through the reduction of emissions and carbon sequestration. Many agriculture mitigation options are estimated to also have positive effects on climate change adaptation, because they increase the resilience of agro ecosystems to perturbation from climatic variation by increasing the retention of nutrients and water and preventing soil erosion, degradation and flooding. Opportunities for climate change mitigation, including those that are synergistic with adaptation, can also be realized through their incorporation into national agricultural policies.

FAO prioritizes a set of high potential adaptation oriented policy options including (i) policies to encourage adapted crop development and farming practises, (ii) crop and income loss risk management policies, (iii) policies to promote soil conservation and land management, (iv) irrigation and water resource management policies and (v) disaster risk management policies. Among mitigation-oriented policy options, the priority is given to the following: (i) policies to promote conservation agriculture, (ii) options to reduce methane emissions from rice paddies, (iii) watershed management policies and (iv) livestock management policies.

Effective integration of climate change adaptation and mitigation into national policies require the active involvement of national agriculture policymakers, including those responsible of implementing policy and stakeholders in the agricultural sector.

The process of mainstreaming includes (i) climate change scenarios and estimate impacts on agriculture, (ii) identifying possible adaptation options (ch. 3) (iii) identifying relevant mitigation options, practises (ch. 4), (iv) selecting appropriate entry points for mainstreaming climate change into existing policies (ch. 5) (v) appraising feasibility and implementation aspects (operational capacity, technical gaps), (vi) stakeholder and donor mobilisation (ch. 6.- 6.3) and (vii) funding and implementation options (ch. 6.4)

The government‘s role in implementation will be more focused on: (i) ensuring commitment and resources, (ii) building capacity at several levels, (iii) gathering data to support planning tools and monitoring activities, (iv) guaranteeing effective institutionalization and coordination mechanisms.

The demand for rapid implementation, the need to work simultaneously at different levels (farmers at the field level and service providers, local, regional and national levels) and the wide range of stakeholders involved are all reasons to consider an approach that mobilizes all partners from the outset. Inspired by the need to find a rapid response to the current economic crisis, a real Innovation-Based Economic Stimulus Package for adaptation and mitigation actions could be built with donor partnership and adequate result-oriented monitoring.

An additional mechanism to scale up the integration process is to ensure that the newly formulated and on going projects are promoting technical adaptation and mitigation options and tools down to farmers and beneficiary level. The whole process of selecting and comparing project / micro project proposals in line with mitigation and adaptation will be based on expected performances (Ex ante appraisal) and appropriate monitoring. 


Date published: 
July 2009
Louis Bockel, Barry Smit
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