Presentation at the “Ideas Marketplace”, Agriculture and Rural Development Day, COP-16, Cancun (December 2010)

cancunClimate change adaptation research has evolved over the past few years but how much of it is being adopted or implemented as policy? How to influence decision-makers to adopt adaptation policies based on research findings?

These were some of the questions asked at events which focused on agriculture on the sidelines of the UN climate change talks in Cancun, Mexico. The ‘Bridging Research and Policy on Climate Change and Agriculture’ presentation addressed this issue and provided evidence of policy processes on agriculture and climate change from a case study in Malawi.

Lars Otto Naess presented a synthesis of some key preliminary findings from the DFID/IDRC-funded Research to Policy for Adaptation (RPA) project.

Blessings Chisinga then presented the case study in Malawi on agriculture and climate change policy processes in the context of climate change.

Chinsinga is currently working on a National Consultative Group with government officials and experts from various sectors to discuss the government’s crop diversification strategy and to identify gaps in agricultural policy processes.

He explained how crop diversification was being implemented in some drought- and flood-prone districts in southern Malawi. Staple cereals are generally less tolerant of heat and as global temperatures soar, growing a variety of crops rather than relying on a staple cereal for income and food could cushion farmers. The Malawian government has endorsed a crop diversification strategy and also provides subsidised fertilizer to poor farmers.

Chinsinga argued that –

“at the national level the government has committed itself to promoting crop diversification to guarantee the resilience of farmers’ livelihoods, but this was overshadowed by the political imperative to ensure food security”.

The presentation concluded that dominant narratives undermine crop diversification. As a result, maize is highly driving agricultural and climate change policy processes in Malawi and food security is being equated to maize security. Counter-narratives advocating crop diversification are key in order to achieve food security in a changing climate.