The Need to Close the Gap Between Smallholder Farmers and Climate-Smart Agriculture

Panelists today from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Fertilizer Canada, and the International Fertilizer Industry Association (IFA), among others, explored the role of farmers in the implementation of the Paris Agreement. As was expected based on the affiliations of a majority of panel members, the discussion focused mainly on the role fertilizers play in achieving global food security and in climate change adaptation and mitigation.

In terms of global food security, the panelists agreed that organic farming alone cannot sustain the world’s growing population, which is expected to exceed 9 billion people by 2050. They dismissed any substantive discussion on the viability of organic farming, and instead pushed for the use of manufactured fertilizers as the answer to food security, adaptation, and mitigation questions—much to the dismay of several audience members. They propose, using Fertilizer Canada’s international 4R partnership as an example, to bring climate-smart agriculture to smallholder farmers in areas such as Africa, South America, and Southeast Asia.

Fertilizer Canada’s 4R program promotes nutrient stewardship programs and fertilizer best management practices that are implemented through the 4Rs: by applying the right source, at the right rate, at the right time, in the right place. To develop site-specific nutrient plans, Fertilizer Canada’s 4R program involves NGOs, governments, food companies, scientists, and farmers. In response to 4R’s plan, one audience member politely commented that too many layers exist between the farmers [in Africa] and the organizations developing these fertilizer plans, making the plans difficult to implement on the ground. If a combination of organic farming and farming with manufactured fertilizers is the solution to increasing food security in the wake of a growing population, the gap needs to close between smallholder farmers and access to climate-smart agriculture.