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Climate-smart agriculture: perspectives and framings

Alvin Chandra, Karen E. McNamara and Paul Dargusch

Climate Policy, 2018, vol. 18, issue 4, 526-541

Abstract: This paper offers a systematic analysis of the concepts and contexts that frame the climate-smart agriculture (CSA) discourse in the academic and policy literature. Documents (n = 113) related to CSA and published in peer-reviewed journals, books, working papers, and scientific reports from 2004 to 2016 were reviewed. Three key trends emerged from the analysis: studies are biased towards global policy agendas; research focuses on scientific and technical issues; and the integration of mitigation, adaptation, and food security (the three pillars of CSA) is becoming a popular scholarly solution. Findings suggest that CSA is a fairly new concept used to describe a range of adaptation and mitigation practices without a specific set of criteria. Although CSA is often framed around the three pillars, the underlying issues constructing the discourse differ at global, developing, and developed country scales. Although there is increasing research on developing countries, particularly in relation to how CSA can transform smallholder agriculture, there is a paucity of research documenting the experiences from developed countries. The findings suggest that research on CSA needs to move beyond solely focussing on scientific approaches and only in certain geographical contexts. If CSA is to be applicable for farmers across the globe, then cross-disciplinary research that is underpinned by broad socio-economic and political contexts is essential to understand how differences in narratives might affect implementation on-the-ground in both developing and developed countries.POLICY RELEVANCEAlthough policy makers are increasingly supportive of the climate-smart agriculture (CSA) approach, the rhetoric has largely been developed on the basis of scientific and technical arguments. The political implications of varying perspectives have resulted in a growing divide between how developing and developed countries frame solutions to the impacts of climate change on agriculture under the 2015 Paris Agreement. Different framings are part of the explanation for why the scope of CSA is being rethought, with the scientific community redirecting attention to seeking a separate work programme under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The current policy framing of CSA will give no new policy direction unless it grounds itself in the smallholder farmer and civil society contexts.

Date: 2018
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