Blog Post

Climate-Smart Agriculture in West Africa

The challenges of climate change and food security are closely intertwined, with agriculture both driving and being impacted by extreme weather events. Policymakers around the globe are faced with the need to increase food production to feed growing populations while reducing that production’s negative impacts on the environment. According to a recent article in Global Environmental Change, climate-smart agriculture (CSA) provides an effective way to enhance countries’ climate resilience while simultaneously ensuring food and nutrition security.

The article examines the impacts of CSA on groundnut yields and food security in three West African countries: Ghana, Mali, and Nigeria. Because these countries are located in arid and semi-arid regions that have seen increasingly long dry seasons, farmers have widely adopted CSA practices such as use of drought- and heat-resistance crop varieties, intercropping of cereals and groundnuts, and use of organic fertilizers. A total of 2,868 households were randomly selected (498 from Ghana, 840 from Mali, and 1,530 from Nigeria) and interviewed regarding their agricultural production practices.

Approximately three-quarters of the surveyed households use at least one of the studied CSA practices, and one-fifth of these used all three.  Adopters of CSA practices tended to be male and more highly educated; they also tended to have larger plot sizes and to participate in off-farm employment activities. Farmers who adopted all three CSA practices tended to be younger and more experienced in groundnut production than non-adopters.

Close proximity to markets and access to agricultural cooperatives also increased farmers’ likelihood of adopting CSA practices, and those who had access to improved seed varieties were more likely to adopt additional practices. Finally, farmers who received advice and training from private agricultural extension services were also more likely to adopt at least one CSA practice.

Across the board, farmers who adopted even one CSA practice saw increased groundnut yields, and those who adopted all three practices saw the highest increases. Farmers who adopted CSA practices also had higher food consumption scores (i.e., higher levels of food security) at the household level. Non-adopters, on the other hand, on average experienced poor household consumption scores.

Looking at each practice separately, the use of improved groundnut varieties had the strongest impact on both yields and food security. The use of intercropping and organic fertilizers both had smaller effects on yields. The authors conclude that bundling these practices may be the most effective way to generate both agricultural productivity and food security gains.

The study provides several policy recommendations based on its findings. First, scaling up investments and promotion of CSA practices should be a priority for policymakers as they seek to tackle the twin challenges of climate change and food security. CSA programs in West Africa should also prioritize subsidizing improved crop varieties, as these were shown to have the strongest impacts on agricultural yields and household food consumption. In addition, investments should focus on agricultural extension services to better educate farmers regarding CSA practices and their benefits.

Finally, CSA programs should be tailored to local contexts, taking into consideration weather patterns and staple crops. While the three studied CSA practices were found to be effective in the context of West African groundnut production, other practices may be more appropriate in other regions and for other crops.