Advanced solutions for agriculture: strategies for the Near East and North Africa facing climate change
Smart, integrated, capable of incorporating both innovation and traditional knowledge: an inventory of solutions, costs and benefits of the main climate change adaptation actions in agriculture for one of the world’s most vulnerable regions. A study that analyses the available knowledge to date on the topic, commissioned by FAO and conducted by the CMCC Foundation with the collaboration of TIMAC AGRO Italia S.p.A.
The Near East and North Africa (NENA) region is one of the world’s regions with the lowest availability of per capita natural resources and one of the most vulnerable to climate change.
Agriculture is the main livelihood for the rural population, which represents 38% of the total population of the region. Increasing pressures on agriculture and natural resources make it urgent for the region, and especially the primary sector, to improve the development and implementation of adaptation plans and actions to cope with climate change.
The paper “Costs and effectiveness of climate change adaptation in agriculture: a systematic review from the NENA region”, one of the outcomes of the work commissioned by FAO and led by CMCC Foundation in the framework of the project SEICA-NENA – Study on the economic impact of climate change on agricultural labour and cost of adaptation in NENA, analyses the state of knowledge on the topic. Through a systematic review of existing literature regarding the costs and benefits of agricultural adaptation measures in the NENA region, the study examines possible adaptation options in crop management, water management, integrated management, and management of indigenous and traditional knowledge in agriculture in the region.
The outcome is an inventory of the main agronomic adaptation options in the NENA region and their costs and benefits. For each adaptation option, authors highlight factors that can determine successful implementations, barriers or limiting factors in the applicability.
According to the study, adapting crop management techniques to climate risks generates a net improvement in crop yields both in Near East and North Africa. Nevertheless, the results showed that adaptation measures are case-specific and cannot be easily generalized, as costs and benefits depend on the specific cropping system considered.
The analysis shows that the integration of different agricultural management techniques, namely the combination of crop, water, and soil management techniques (e.g., changes in crop calendars along with the choice of different varieties and/or irrigation and tillage management), can provide greater benefits than the application of a single practice.
In addition, the application of climate smart agriculture techniques – an approach for developing agricultural strategies to secure sustainable food security under climate change – and conservation agriculture – a farming system that avoids or minimizes tillage and provides for a maintenance of a permanent soil cover and diversification of plant species – can provide benefits in terms of both adaptation and mitigation of climate change. Indeed, on the one hand, they can maintain or even improve crop yields; on the other hand, they can increase carbon sequestration and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The findings of available studies also highlight the importance of including traditional knowledge as a source of information to inform effective adaptation practices.
Since the number of studies that assess the costs and benefits of climate change adaptation options for the agricultural sector in the NENA region is still limited, although it is growing in the last decade, results recommend intensifying targeted research and long-term experiments to evaluate these practices in the different farming systems under present and projected climate change conditions.
“More research efforts on climate change adaptation are needed, focusing on different agricultural systems in the NENA region,” said Valentina Mereu and Antonio Trabucco, CMCC researchers and authors of the study. “We need more studies on costs and benefits of adaptation measures that apply a robust decision-making approach to evaluate adaptation measures’ effectiveness in a context of deep uncertainty. We also recommend determining the main reasons – which can be institutional, economic, political, informative, technical – for the non-implementation or abandonment of these adaptation practices. This way, we can contribute to overcoming these barriers and assist in building climate resilience for the agricultural sector in the NENA region, integrating adaptation priorities of the sector into national plans and strategies.”
The study was commissioned by FAO (NENA Office, Cairo, Egypt) to the CMCC Foundation and coordinated by Francesco Bosello and Shouro Dasgupta of CMCC and Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, with the collaboration of TimacAGRO Italia S.p.A.
For more information:
Daniel El Chami, Antonio Trabucco, Theresa Wong, Mohamed Abdel Monem & Valentina Mereu (2022): Costs and effectiveness of climate change adaptation in agriculture: a systematic review from the NENA region, Climate Policy, DOI: 10.1080/14693062.2021.1997703