Unloading combined corn grain during harvest. Farmers have rationalized fossil fuel powered, climate-adverse inputs including synthetic fertilizers based on measured productivity and returns. What are the parallel benefits of climate “smart” agriculture, and how do we measure them?

There’s a new kid on the block tugging at the global development purse strings. It’s called climate “smart” agriculture, heir apparent to sustainable agriculture, the latter aging passé with trend-conscious consultants who design projects for international donors like USAID, The World Bank, United Nations entities, and their contractors. Even global centers like the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) have been smitten. I have heard the term “climate-smart” used indistinctly, in different settings, over the past year or so but did not pay attention to it. My bad. Now, it seems, the climate-smart paradigm is in heavy rotation by purveyors of international development. But what exactly is climate “smart” agriculture (CSA)? What does CSA really mean to a smallholder remotely located in, say, Burkina Faso or Bangladesh? Or to operators here at home in North Carolina? Is CSA a path forward for global agriculture or is it just another semantic pivot toward re-stocking R & D coffers? Continue reading