Small farmers can earn big returns by investing in climate adaptation, new UN report finds

9 November 2016

The United Nations International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) today issued a new report which shows that for every dollar invested through its Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme (ASAP), farmers could earn a return of between $1.40 and $2.60 over a 20 year period by applying climate change adaptation practices.

The report, The Economics Advantage: Assessing the value of climate change actions in agriculture, was presented today at the UN Climate Conference in Marrakech, known by the shorthand ‘COP 22’ and is a result of cooperation between IFAD and the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).

“There is a strong economic case to be made for investing in agriculture for future food security, even under changing climate conditions,” said IFAD’s Director of Environment and Climate, Margarita Astralaga. “IFAD’s ASAP, the world’s largest programme for smallholder farmers’ adaptation, shows that where investments are made that help farmers adapt to climate change the returned financial benefit to farmers is much, much higher.”

According to findings, regions where IFAD invests in adaptation, the rate of return for farmers and the government agencies comes in 15 to 35 per cent higher, even despite the cost of borrowing.

CCAFS’s Head of Research, Sonja Vermeulen stressed the importance of agriculture for adaptation and mitigation, ‘saying: “Agriculture is especially sensitive to climate change, as well as accounting for significant emissions.”

In addition, there is a strong economic rationale for supporting actions on agriculture confirmed by the majority of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to the Paris Agreement.

“Climate change proposals on agriculture need to be supported by credible economic and financial proposals in order to unleash significant public and private finance,” stated Ms. Astralaga. “The purpose of this report is to share emerging information to support the use of clear and concise economic data that shows when, where and how IFAD investments bring financial returns to the communities we work with,” she added.

Reports have also shown that positive economic returns can be implemented in practices to build adaptive capacity and reduce emissions intensity such as innovative rice cropping in Viet Nam, or switching from growing coffee to cocoa in Nicaragua.

Furthermore, an additional set of non-technical mitigation and adaptation intervention are equally important but more difficult to implement, including capacity building, institutional strengthening, access to value chains and research.


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