Climate-Smart Agriculture Policy and (In)Justice for Smallholders in Developing Countries

Climate-Smart Agriculture Policy and (In)Justice for Smallholders in Developing Countries

Ibnu Budiman (Wageningen University and Research, The Netherlands)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-0125-2.ch002
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This chapter analyzes whether the current policy for climate-smart agriculture meets the demands of climate justice and respects the rights of smallholders, and if not, how it should be amended. The study is based on a literature review and several interviews with climate-smart agriculture actors from diverse backgrounds: (1) consultant or practitioner, (2) farmer, (3) business or entrepreneur, (4) scientist. To examine the climate-smart agriculture concept and its implementation, the following ethical positions are mainly considered: (1) maximalist, (2) minimalist, (3) Pogge´s intermediate position, (4) Nussbaum's capability approach, (5) Kantian, (t) altruism. This study found that the current climate-smart agriculture approaches are not fairly implemented, due to the unjust sharing of benefits of income and burdens of emission reduction costs, among smallholders and big industries. According to the principles of climate justice, this sharing proportion should be equally distributed based on an individual's capacities and poverty should also be taken into consideration.
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Climate change is already causing subtle changes in weather patterns that are overwhelming communities. It affects the capacity of communities to cope with physical disasters and social disasters like chronic poverty (Comfort et al., 1999; Heltberg et al., 2009). Heltberg et al. (2009) state that adaptation strategies have done little to address the underlying problems of vulnerability. Risk and hazard amplified by climate change affect the agriculture sector negatively. At the same time, (industrialized) agriculture is considered as one of the causes of climate change due to its contribution of 13 percent of total global emissions. In response, international organizations have proposed the policy of climate-smart agriculture as a solution (World Bank, 2011).

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) established climate-smart agriculture as a holistic concept that addresses agricultural development issues and other sustainable development goals, inter alia climate change. Climate-smart agriculture purports to tackle both environmental problems and socio-economic challenges. FAO has promoted climate-smart agriculture to developing countries, by introducing a change in food systems through multiple approaches and resource components. In general, climate-smart agriculture is conceptualised to address the three following elements: (i) improving crops productivity and people incomes; (ii) increasing resilience of livelihoods; (iii) abating greenhouse gasses (GHGs) emissions to protect ecosystems (FAO, 2010).

Among other actors involved, some powerful actors may exploit their position when implementing climate-smart agriculture, causing inequality and affecting farmers’ rights and their welfare. In this way, climate-smart agriculture may lead to agri-food companies acquiring land holdings and thus, forcing farmers to transfer their holdings because of their inability to conduct climate-smart agriculture practices (Taylor, 2017). On the other hand, development projects that implement climate-smart agriculture claim to target poverty reduction, food security, and economic empowerment (Steenwerth et al., 2014), These development projects also have their limitations because of the way development has become an ‘industry’ that often does not hold its promises; and sometimes has disastrous effects (e.g. Ferguson, 1990; Moyo, 2010). Therefore, long-term, effective solutions for farmers are unlikely to be found in intervention-specific development alternatives (Escobar, 1992). Structural support for all, rather than project-based support for some is required, and farmers need to have a say in development processes on the basis of deliberative democracy, in which deliberation is central to decision-making (Habermas, 2001). Farmers need to get involved in consensus decision-making for climate-smart agriculture because by its nature farming is a locally-specific issue that defies one-size-fits-all solutions.

Developed countries have a duty to support vulnerable smallholders in low-income countries for ethical reasons (not least because the wealth of developed countries is in part based on the import of food products from these very countries). Through the concept and practice of climate-smart agriculture, climate change adaptation agendas in the agricultural sector are emphasized in part to comply with this ethical duty (Nunan, 2017).

In this paper, we query whether current policy and practice for climate-smart agriculture meet demands of climate justice and particularly respects the rights of smallholders; and if not, how should policy and practice be amended. This study is a general analysis of smallholders’ cases in developing countries in South-east Asia, South Asia, and Africa.

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