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Climate-smart agriculture in Nepal

This brief synthesises CDKN, CGIAR, LI-BIRD and partners' research, field testing and policy work on climate-smart agriculture in Nepal.
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Adaptation to climate change in the agricultural sector and allied sectors is a major current and future challenge for Nepal. The majority of the population is still dependent on highly climate-sensitive agriculture. In recent years, long drought spells during the monsoon season and increased temperatures and unseasonal heavy rains during winter have caused serious distress to agriculture-dependent communities in many locations. If the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of ending poverty, achieving food security and promoting sustainable agriculture are to be realised, climate change adaptation interventions need to be implemented in earnest.

To address these challenges, the Scaling up Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA) in Nepal project, aimed to (1) identify, test and screen CSA practices and technologies that provide suitable CSA options for various agro-ecological zones; (2) develop pathways for scaling up champion CSA options; and (3) enhance the capacity of stakeholders and generate evidence-based knowledge materials to support the dissemination of climate-sensitive agricultural technology and practices.

This paper* provides an overview of the project’s methodology and findings. It aims to offer a synthesis of the research, field testing and policy work done over the the project period, which is captured in much more detail in the complete project reports. This document is specifically intended to inform the Ministry of Agricultural Development and other stakeholders involved in agriculture in their efforts to further enhance climate-smart agriculture across Nepal.

*Download the full paper from the right-hand column.

Methods and Tools

The three pillars of CSA, namely food security, adaptation and mitigation, together with gender equity and social inclusion (GESI) as a cross-cutting theme, were used with di erent weights for prioritisation of CSA options

The project followed a four part methodology, as summarised below:

1) Identification and prioritisation of Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) technologies and practices

  • The implementation phase started with activities to identify, test and screen CSA technologies and practices (CSA options) suitable for different geographic, agro-ecological and socioeconomic contexts of Nepal by involving farmers, researchers and extension agencies.
  • The project developed a pool (selection) of CSA technologies and practices, by conducting a literature review, and consultation with stakeholders and experts; developed participatory screening and prioritisation methods; selected CSA technologies and practices for field piloting; carried out piloting of the selected technologies on farm; and finally screened the CSA champions for scaling up (Figure 1).
  • The selection of the CSA technologies and practices with the highest potential for scale-up and impact, referred to in this project as ‘champion’ CSA options, was done primarily via four criteria: technical appropriateness, farmers’ acceptance, climate sensitivity and scalability.
A systematic method for scaling up CSA technology and practice (Figure 1, page 3 of the report).

2) Testing and evaluation of CSA options

  • To cover a degree of agro-ecological variation across the country, three sites were selected for detailed study and field piloting of CSA options in the Gandaki River basin in western Nepal:
    • (1) Ghanapokhara Village Development Committee (VDC) of Lamjung District representing high-altitude farming systems 2,000 metres above sea level (masl);
    • (2) Majhthana VDC of Kaski District representing mid-hills farming systems from 1,000 to 1,500 masl; and
    • (3) Agheuli VDC of Nawalparasi District representing southern plains (Terai) from 300 to 600 masl.

3) Extrapolation of CSA options

  • Extrapolation of CSA options based on field evidence can help CSA policy-makers and implementers at national and subnational levels to make informed decisions and invest in a strategic CSA portfolio for existing and future uncertainties. This is important because CSA includes a package of interventions best suited to a local context to improve the local production in the face of climate change.
  • In this project cultivation areas for rice, wheat, maize and millet in each district were used to estimate the geographic potential for scaling up of the selected CSA options. More than 50% climate similarity was assumed to be a favourable condition for technology transfer from one location to another.

4) Pathways to scale-up

  • The project then developed pathways to scale-up and implementation plans for ‘champion’ CSA options with participation of local communities and government stakeholders.
  • For this, the project carried out climate analogue analysis and developed extrapolation areas for CSA activities; assessed barriers to and opportunities for CSA scaling up in existing policy and institutions; and proposed a model and pathways for scaling up of the selected CSA technologies and practices (options) in Nepal.

Key messages (abridged)

The study presents a series of key messages from the analysis:

1. Pool of CSA technologies and practices

  • This project developed a pool of CSA technologies and practices that are most relevant in the context of agro-ecological and socioeconomic conditions of Nepal.
  • These CSA technologies and practices (CSA options) range from a simple adjustment in crop management practices (e.g. changes in sowing time, application of water and fertilisers, tillage practices and inter-cultural operations) to the transformation of agricultural production systems (e.g. change in cropping systems and land uses) to adjust to new climatic conditions in a particular location.
  • These include, depending on their appropriateness for a particular location, water-smart practices, weather-smart activities, nutrient-smart practices, carbon- and energy-smart practices and knowledge-smart activities. Figure 4 summarises these technologies.
Pool of major CSA technologies and practices (figure 4, page 5 of the report).

2. Screening champion CSA options and portfolios

  • The meta-data and data analysis from the pilot sites were consolidated for screening the champion CSAs for high- hills, mid-hills and Terai regions.
  • From these, the final list of champion CSA options for Nepal constitutes 17 CSA options.*
  • Among them, 11 are for high-hills regions, 13 for mid-hills regions and 10 for Terai regions.
  • Seven CSA options from the list have high potential for application across the three agro-ecological regions.

*See table 1, page 6 of the report, for further details of these champion CSA options.

3. Pathways for scaling up champion CSA options

  • Champion CSA options are expected to have a greater potential for adoption and achieve higher impacts.
  • Up-scaling of CSA options is a complex and non-linear process that has to consider ecological diversity, socioeconomic and institutional dimensions, and climate sensitivity at various levels and scales.
    • Scaling up can be horizontal across the geographical space in both the present and the future, and vertical integrating at policy and institutional levels.
  • Adaptive policies in agriculture need to be coherent across all institutions, reflected in actionable plans, and backed up with additional investments in knowledge, technologies and human capital to promote wider adoption of CSA.
  • Efforts to scale up CSA options therefore need to take account of complex and continuously changing interactions between biophysical, social, economic, environmental, climatic and institutional factors.
    • The complexity is compounded as these factors interact with different agricultural management levels (local to national, and geographically) over different time frames.
  • There is very little evidence-based knowledge available on CSA options that fits with Nepali farming systems.
    • In addition, the conceptual clarity on complex and non- linear processes of agricultural technology diffusion and scaling up of CSA options have not been well understood by the agricultural professionals and organisations working in agricultural development in Nepal.
  • Based on the need, context, institutional and policy framework, and attributes of the technologies and practices, the project proposed three models to support the pathways for scaling up of CSA options. These were:
    • (1) knowledge-transfer model,
    • (2) commercial business model and
    • (3) policy incidence model.

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