Research To Support Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA)


The increasing global population demands increased food production. However, production is struggling to keep up as crop yields level off in many parts of the world making the food security challenge not only more difficult to meet the ever increasing demand estimated at 9 billion people by 2050

Agriculture’s extreme vulnerability to climate change has intensified this challenge and its negative impacts in the form of reduced yields and more frequent extreme weather events, affecting crops and livestock alike. This calls for substantial investments in adaptation to maintain current yields and to achieve the required production increases.

Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA)

The objective of CSA is to enhance capacities of the agricultural systems to support food security while by adopting adaptation and mitigation strategies in sustainable agriculture development strategies through adoption of integrated approaches. Implementation of CSA best options will be shaped by specific country contexts and capacities, access to better information, alignment of supporting policies, well-coordinated institutional arrangements and incentives that are flexible enough as well as financing. The concept of CSA is evolving and there is no one-size-fits-all blueprint for how it can be approached and pursued.

Why research in CSA?

Research assists in not only moving away from just productivity and high incomes but address the need to think of profitability, sustainability and adaptability. Research in all areas of food production is important as a driver to CSA at all levels of the production chain.

Research areas:

Some research areas for enhancing CSA practices in crop production include:

Soil research:                                                                           

Apart from maintaining the soil health to enable it to support crop production, soil also supports other functions. We must develop new technologies and techniques to make our soils more productive. Achieving this will require not only improved crops but novel soil management strategies that can only be accomplished through investment in interdisciplinary research and development. “To Forget how to Tend the Soils is to Forget Ourselves” – Mahatma Gandhi.

Seed research:

Access to quality seed also facilitates food resource diversification and prevention of genetic erosion in rural agriculture. Seed research coupled with seed certification and quality assurance system promotes required seed varieties adaptable for specific ecological zones and consistently of high and known quality.

Tools and technology research:

Targeted research and findings will assist the time to react to challenges, linking research findings to local context as well as assist in advancing new technology from other areas.

Productivity research:

Agricultural research and extension made to crop productivity is important to estimate the rate of return to these activities, to recommend allocation of more and higher quality resources to these activities to facilitate a rapid increase in agricultural productivity. There is a need to conduct thorough research on the extension systems to enable service delivery that supports CSA technologies.

Market research:

There is need to do through research of the market place environments. Thorough research ensures that the produce meets the specifications of the market needs in terms of not only quantity but quality and safety. One area of research is to determine the acceptable levels (i.e. above the maximum residue limit (MRL)) in accordance with good agricultural practice (GAP) and thus limit rejection at the market due to unacceptable chemical residues occurring.

Policy research:

Research in the policy environment gives evidence and convinces policy makers and other actors to invest in CSA, by mainstreaming it into their policies, frameworks and programmes through the development and promotion of appropriate policies, norms, standards, programmes and guidelines to support sustainable agricultural practices.


The above underpins the need for adequate research at all levels of the value chain for success of CSA implementation. This may not be a uniform requirement across regions and countries. This cannot happen without adequate resourcing at both levels, i.e. regional, sub-regional as well as at national levels.

This write up was done by By Nathaniel Mtunji, Arising from the 4th Global Science Conference on CSA, Johannesburg November 2017.

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