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Learning Journey: Climate Resilient Agriculture and Food Systems

This article summarises a learning journey that engaged participants from diverse topical backgrounds in a series of discussions and (recorded) webinars on climate resilient agriculture.
Multiple Authors
Dionne Bunsha


If by 2050 world food production is to meet the demand of the world population it has to increase by 60%. However, climate change related challenges are expected to exceed regular coping capacities of smallholder farmers – through their characteristics, their magnitude and their frequency.

Whereas scenarios forecast regional average annual harvest reductions of up to minus 25% by the year 2050, some farmers in the sub-regions might even lose their complete harvest in 1 of 10 years on average due to extreme and unexpected events like droughts, heavy rains, heat or cold waves.

This learning journey engaged participants from diverse topical backgrounds in a series of online discussions and webinars to learn and better coordinate and guide action that aims to support and develop climate resilient agriculture and food systems.

See the results and access the resources from this Learning Journey here.

Programme and outcomes

This learning journey aimed to:

  1. Learn and share experience and evidence-based knowledge about key elements of Climate Resilient Agriculture in order to reach a concrete and shared practical understanding of the concept.
  2. Co-Develop quality criteria and system boundaries for effective programmes, projects and activities aiming to promote Climate Resilient Agriculture & Food Systems;
  3. Coordinate and guide action (e.g. by developing a factsheet, guidelines and other measures) to do our work better, i.e. to optimize productivity, resilience/adaptation, mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions and the achievement of other development goals under changing and challenging weather conditions.

These goals were achieved through an intense dialogue between a variety of people, institutions and networks in the form of a series of online discussions and webinars.

Online Dialogues

The online dialogues address the following questions:

  • Week I: 19 – 23 November 2018. Key question: Which of the key elements of climate resilient agriculture programmes, projects and activities did you experience and how?
  • Week II: 26 – 30 November 2018. Key question: What are the most important quality criteria and system boundaries you identified for effective programmes, projects and activities aiming at climate resilient agriculture & food systems?
  • Week III: 3 – 7 December 2018. Key question: Which are the best practices to include all public and private stakeholders that lead the way? What needs to be done to speed up processes?


  • Monday, 19 November 2018, 2pm – 3pm (CET). Climate Resilient Agriculture​: SCOPING AND EVIDENCE BASE
    • Bruce Campbell, Senior researcher CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS): Climate resilient agriculture: key features, controversies and way forward
    • Gernot Laganda, Chief / Climate and Disaster Risk Reduction Programmes UN World Food Programme: Climate resilient agriculture in the context of humanitarian aid
    • Click here to read a summary, watch a recording and view the presentations.
  • Monday, 26 November 2018, 2pm – 3.30pm (CET). Climate Resilient Agriculture​: BEST PRACTICES AND QUALITY CRITERIA I
    • Daniel Felder Scientific officer at the agro-environmental systems and nutrients unit Federal Office for Agriculture (FOAG): The Swiss case
    • Dr Arjumand Nizami, Country Director Pakistan Programme HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation: The Pakistani case
    • Washington Zhakata, Climate Change Focal Point Climate Change Office Zimbabwe: The Zimbabwean case
    • Click here to read a summary, watch a recording and view the presentations
  • Thursday, 29 November 2018, 2pm – 3.30pm (CET). Climate Resilient Agriculture​: BEST PRACTICES AND QUALITY CRITERIA II
    • Dr Khin Mar Cho, Country Director for Myanmar International Agricultural Extension, Food and Nutrition Specialist, Cornell University, New York, USA: The Myanmar case
    • Abdulai Jalloh, Director of Research and Innovation CORAF/WECARD (West and Central Africa Council for Agricultural Research and Development): The case of West Africa
    • Oliver Page + IFAD country representative International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD): The Bolivian case
    • Click here to read a summary, watch a recording and view the presentations
    • TBD: CRA in robust Market Systems Development Programme
    • Stefanie Kägi, Senior Advisor Sustainable Agriculture & Extension HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation: Water Productivity Project (WAPRO)
    • Click here to read a summary, watch a recording and view the presentations​

Key points form the learning journey can be found here ( by Mélanie Surchat)

Why focus on climate resilient agriculture and food systems?

Agriculture is both a cause and a victim of water scarcity.Agriculture accounts for an estimated 70 percent of global water withdrawals and up to 95 percent in developing countries, while competition with other sectors for water is increasing. FAO projects that irrigated food production will increase by more than 50 percent by 2050, but the amount of water withdrawn by agriculture can increase by only 10 percent, provided that irrigation practices are improved and yields increase. More frequent and severe droughts impact agricultural production, while rising temperatures translate into increased water demand in agriculture sectors. Improving water productivity and sustainable water resources management is critical for ensuring food, nutritional and livelihood security in the long-term.

Climate Resilient Agriculture (CRA), Climate Wise or Climate Smart Agriculture encompass a variety of social, climate and environmental objectives,including food production and income generation, soil and water protection, biodiversity conservation, landscaping and amenity (recreation) services for an increasingly urbanized society. These activities support climate change adaptation while also aiming at improving the capacity of soils and agricultural systems to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and to absorb carbon, respectively.

Some stakeholders are skeptical and see unavoidable trade-offsbetween resilience, sustainability and productivity in CRA approaches. They claim that development cooperation under the new paradigm of a CRA will need to contribute also to:

  1. fairer access to food production assets for producers like land, biodiversity, water and services (i.e. inputs like seed, fertilizers and pesticides and other pest control measures, logistics & marketing, research, innovation systems & rural advisory services, financial services, insurances) and fairer access to food for consumers (i.e. price, quality and nutritional values);
  2. shifts to more sustainable consumption patterns;
  3. ecological intensification based on biological processes, diversification, reliance on renewable resources, minimization of agrochemicals and inorganic fertilizers, environmentally more sound, sustainable land and water management, soil conserving mechanization or more human labor as well as a reinvestment in (agro-) biodiversity and landscape diversity;
  4. a production, distribution and consumption of food that is as local as possible;
  5. a general change in the power balance in the agricultural investment agenda (a broader stakeholder participation and better prioritization of smallholder interests in structural programming and research and more transparence).

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