Photo Credit: Max W. Orenstein / Clinton Foundation
Nov 15
November 15, 2013

Practicing Climate-Smart Agriculture in Africa


It is a moral outcry that almost 1 billion people go hungry to bed every night. At the same time climate change has devastating effects on our food production woldwide. The only solution is to double our food production in a climate smart way.

Many people don’t know that the Netherlands is second only to the U.S. in global agriculture production, and we are constantly innovating to promote food security and increase our own economic opportunities.  One of the key tenets of Dutch agriculture is sustainability and environmentalism—we practice Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA).

Between now and 2050, the Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that the world’s population will increase by one-third, and the World Bank estimates that food production will have to increase by 70 percent to satisfy the expected demand.  While we must look to agriculture to feed our growing population, yet climate change is having, and will continue to have, adverse effects on food production due to higher temperatures, greater demand for water for crops, unpredictable weather patterns, and the increased prevalence of extreme events.  These in turn lead to reduced production and decreased incomes for smallholder farmers—particularly in Africa, where the majority of people depend on agriculture, and where rural populations are especially vulnerable to climate change. In addition, agriculture itself can have a negative impact on natural ecosystems if it is done in climate-unfriendly ways.

In the Netherlands, we take the lead in promoting CSA practices, which promote natural re-nourishment of depleted soils, water retention within that soil, protection of surrounding watersheds and forests, and reduction of harmful emissions from agriculture.  Our role as a CSA leader has allowed us to play a key role in boosting food security in Tanzania and Malawi, while also tapping into new markets in Africa—because what’s good for the environment is also good for the economy. 

On Saturday, November 2, I was honored to join President Bill Clinton in Washington, D.C. to sign the Dutch government’s second Memorandum of Understanding with the Clinton Foundation, to support CSA in the Foundation’s agricultural programs in Rwanda.  This grant builds on our previous $3 million investment to launch CSA agriculture programs with the Foundation in Tanzania and Malawi, which was announced in July 2013.  Together, we and the Clinton Foundation are expanding CSA practices in Tanzania, Malawi, and Rwanda, through the Clinton Development Initiative (CDI).

CDI’s work encourages economic growth by empowering farmers with the tools they need to support their families and uplift their communities, helping them purchase fertilizer, seed, and other outputs, and expanding their access to bank loans. CDI currently focuses on increasing opportunities for smallholder farmers to generate increased income from their farming operations, and the addition of CSA practices will make their farms and their livelihoods more sustainable. To date, CDI has helped more than 21,000 farmers increase their income, many by more than fivefold, and I believe that CDI’s powerful model for agriculture in Africa can be adapted and scaled to millions of people in the coming years, with the assistance of more partners.

Our collective work in Africa is also an important contribution to the newly established Climate-Smart Agriculture Alliance which will be launched in South Africa later this year. Reflecting the approach on short-lived climate pollutants as spearheaded by Secretary Hillary Clinton, the CSA Alliance is geared towards driving knowledge-based action on the ground.

We look forward to continuing to work with the Clinton Foundation to improve the lives of smallholder farmers while combating the negative effects of climate change. Using Climate-Smart agriculture is an important step towards food security, and one that we are proud to take in partnership with the Clinton Foundation.