Staff Writer l Palladium - Sep 09 2022
Improving Business and Resiliency: Convincing Smallholder Farmers to Switch to Climate-Smart Agriculture

“Climate-smart”, “sustainability”, “green practices”; these buzz words are everywhere, and as businesses around the world and across sectors are embracing the fact that sustainable practices are good for the bottom line, the shift towards greener practices seems more and more realistic. But that shift cannot happen if only a portion of businesses and organisations switch to climate-smart systems, and one of the most critical sectors is agriculture.

The majority of the world’s 570 million farms are smaller than 2 hectares and run by smallholder farmers. Smallholders produce about one-third of the world’s food and are an integral part of the global economy. And while many of these smallholder farmers recognise the importance of and business case for shifting to climate-smart solutions, they often do not have the resources or technology to do so.

For those smallholders that may not understand the benefits or who may be concerned about the risks of changing the way that they have farmed their land for generations, change could be off the table. “While we attempt to solve the climate crisis, it can’t be done without the buy-in and the work of smallholder farmers whose land is key to achieving the net zero outcomes we’re all chasing,” explained Palladium’s Managing Director Jose Maria Ortiz after a trip to Ecuador. He added that without the proper resources or support, many farmers won’t buy into more sustainable practices. “It’s not because they don’t want to capitalise on the nature they have at their fingertips, or that they don’t understand how the markets work. It’s simply because those markets aren’t accessible.”

In a new report, Palladium’s Elizabeth Adams, Fatima Kamran, and Jessica Li spotlight Feed the Future Malawi Agricultural Diversification (AgDiv) Activity, which has been working with smallholder farmers in Malawi to explain the importance of climate-smart practices and support the transition. The team conducts field days and demonstrations to reach smallholder farmers with information on good agricultural practices such as early planting, timely weeding, and other recommended techniques.

“We seldom focus on the business case that drives smallholder farmers’ decisions when this group often bears the brunt of risk exposure and income volatility due to changing climate conditions,” explains the authors of the report. “If these farmers can see strong demonstrations of how climate-smart agriculture innovations improve their bottom line consistently, then they may feel more encouraged to seek out ways to harness those technologies for themselves.”

AgDiv’s programs have been successful in expanding the demand for and availability of many agricultural technologies and helping farmers understand the value of technology adoption. With climate change comes changing weather patterns, worsening natural disasters, and even climate-motivated violence, and many farmers are taking the brunt of these effects, making it imperative to adapt to the realities of the climate crisis. “It’s become clear that all Palladium projects and proposals need to engage in knowledgeable discussion and recognition of how to tackle climate resilience within each of the local contexts,” adds the authors.

“We recognise that climate-smart agriculture practices are not necessarily new practices but rather they are a new approach to analysing and evaluating the practices that are often beneficial for productivity. With that said, they are highly context-specific and knowledge-intensive – which means they must be customised to the context, and we firmly believe there is no silver bullet.”

AgDiv highlights that if climate smart solutions can increase production efficiencies, advance nutrition outcomes, and yield environmental improvements then they can make a strong appeal to farmers.

To learn more about AgDiv’s work, read the report or contact