Scientific Publication

Transforming Food Systems in Africa under Climate Change Pressure: Role of Climate-Smart Agriculture


Low-income producers and consumers of food in Africa are more vulnerable to climate change, owing to their comparatively limited ability to invest in more adapted institutions and technologies under increasing climatic risks. Therefore, the way we manage our food systems needs to be urgently changed if the goal is to achieve food security and sustainable development more quickly. This review paper analyzes the nexus “climate-smart agriculture-food systems-sustainable development” in order to draw sound ways that could allow rapid transformation of food systems in the context of climate change pressure. We followed an integrative review approach based on selected concrete example-experiences from ground-implemented projects across Africa (Ghana, Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, in West Africa, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, and Tanzania in East Africa). Mostly composed of examples from the Climate Change, Agriculture, and Food Security (CCAFS) Research Program of the CGIAR (former Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research) and its partners, these also included ground initiatives from non-CGIAR that could provide demonstrable conditions for a transformative agriculture and food systems. The lessons learnt from the ground implementation of climate-smart agriculture (CSA), in the African context, were instrumental to informing the actions areas of the food-system transformation framework suggested in this paper (reroute, de-risk, reduce, and realign). Selected CSA example-cases to inform these action areas included 24 initiatives across Africa, but with a focus on the following studies for an in-depth analysis: (1) the climate-smart village approach to generate knowledge on climate-smart agriculture (CSA) technologies and practices for their scaling, (2) the use of climate information services (CIS) to better manage climate variability and extremes, and (3) the science–policy interfacing to mainstream CSA into agricultural development policies and plans. The analysis of these examples showed that CSA can contribute driving a rapid change of food systems in Africa through: (1) the implementation of relevant climate-smart technologies and practices to reroute farming and rural livelihoods to new climate-resilient and low-emission trajectories; (2) the development and application of weather and climate information services (WCIS) that support de-risking of livelihoods, farms, and value chains in the face of increasing vagaries of weather and extreme events; (3) the use of climate-smart options that minimize waste of all the natural resources used for growing, processing, packaging, transporting, and marketing food, and therefore mitigating the carbon footprint attached to this food loss and waste; and (4) the realignment of policies and finance that facilitate action in the four proposed action areas through the identification of news ways to mobilize sustainable finance and create innovative financial mechanisms and delivery channels