Climate-smart smallholder agriculture: what’s different?

There is a growing consensus that climate change is transforming the context for rural development, changing physical and socio-economic landscapes and making smallholder development more expensive. But there is less consensus on how smallholder agriculture practices should change as a result. The question is often asked: what really is different about ‘climate-smart’ smallholder agriculture that goes beyond regular best practice in development? This article suggests three major changes: First, project and policy preparation need to reflect higher risks, where vulnerability assessments and greater use of climate scenario modelling are combined with a better understanding of interconnections between smallholder farming and wider landscapes. Second, this deeper appreciation of interconnected risks should drive a major scaling up of successful ‘multiple-benefit’ approaches to sustainable agricultural intensification by smallholder farmers. Third, climate change and fiscal austerity are reshaping the architecture of public (and potentially private) international development finance.