Climate-smart agriculture: learning from three agro-ecological regions of Nepal
Agriculture is a major economic driver in the country of Nepal. Approximately 75% of the country’s employment and 25% of its gross domestic product comes from the agriculture sector. Farming is also vulnerable to extreme weather events such as droughts, floods, erosion, and hot and cold waves that are becoming more common with climate change. Adding to the country’s challenges, Nepal has recently undergone a political transition that resulted in men leaving rural regions for increased economic opportunity in cities. Women, the elderly, and lower-caste groups have taken on increased responsibilities and ownership of farms. This has made intervention programs more difficult because these groups often do not have access to information on best practices of farming and are discriminated against.
To reduce the vulnerability of the agricultural sector to climate change and inequality climate-smart agriculture programs were created. Climate-smart agriculture consists of three dimensions to support sustainable agriculture: economic social, and environmental. The ongoing Nepal program has been successful in meeting its program goals. Program participants have identified best-practices and lessons learned that enabled the project’s success. These lessons learned include:
- Providing a portfolio of measures to adapt to climate change rather than just a single solution. Because of the ecological diversity of the country, approaching farmers with one proposed solution was found to be ineffective. But preparing a portfolio of solutions that farmers could flexibly adopt was well-received and increased program participation and success.
- Designing solutions to have multiple benefits. Communities and individuals were more likely to accept climate-smart technologies and practices that provided multiple benefits. One example is adding duck farming to rice fields. Ducks eat weeds. Allowing ducks to graze in rice fields reduced the workload of farmers to manually remove weeds. Duck feces also lock in nitrogen to the soil, increase soil moisture retention, and reduce erosion.
- Building ownership by local stakeholders. By requiring a small financial investment in the program personal ownership and project success was drastically increased.
- Providing information for farmers to better understand immediate climate risks. Few of the farmers had enough education or background to understand climate change, but the farmers were concerned about how to prevent the worst impacts from near-term extreme weather events.
- Utilizing local organization to operate the programs. Nepal has many local government programs and grassroots organizations. Empowering local organizations to operate the program increased the voice of minorities in decision making processes and facilitated distributed meetings where more farmers could participate in program structures.
The program also was successful in creating sustainable projects among diverse stakeholders that would continue after international funding was no longer available.