Smallholder Farmers: A Critical Piece of the Climate Change Solution

When it comes to climate change, the world’s farmers are often portrayed as either victims or contributors. But what if we, instead, viewed them as part of the solution?

Farmers have enormous potential to be environmental stewards, conserving vital resources for generations to come. We see this every day in our work at Root Capital. Through “climate-smart” agricultural practices – like  agroforestry production or the use of drought-resistant seeds – farmers are leading the way when it comes to climate change solutions.

This new video from Farming First explains how climate-smart agriculture has helped farmers around the world adapt and thrive in the face of a changing climate: 


But many farmers, living at the end of dirt roads and often on less than $2.50 a day, lack access to cutting-edge technology, data, technical guidance, and capital. How do they know if they’re choosing the right adaptation strategies? How can they afford to make necessary investments on their farms?

This is where our clients — local farmer organizations and agricultural businesses — come in.

By buying the products of hundreds, sometimes even thousands of smallholder farmers, these enterprises can connect farmers to the knowledge, resources, and financial incentives needed to adopt climate-smart practices and build resilience – the ability to cope with or adapt to expected climate shocks and changes over the next several decades.

For example, Root Capital works with agricultural businesses that provide agronomic training to help prepare farmers to succeed in the face of climate change. These businesses give farmers access to resources – in the form of equipment, credit, or farm inputs like fertilizer – to help them implement these strategies. And, they provide farmers with a stable market for their crops, so that farmers know that investments in their farm will continue to pay off in the future.

In some cases, our clients may even help farmers transition to more “climate-ready” crops – crops that are expected to perform well under future climatic conditions – by creating new markets and first-mover advantage, or providing targeted technical assistance.

In Central America, for example, rising temperatures and changing rainfall patterns will likely reduce coffee yields and quality over the coming decades. One of our clients in Nicaragua is preparing for this new reality by training farmers to plant heat-tolerant ginger and turmeric alongside their coffee trees and connecting farmers to high-value, certified markets for these spices. In the short-term, ginger and turmeric provide farmers with supplementary income when coffee revenues are down. In fact, over the past three years as coffee yields have suffered due to changing climatic conditions, farmers have earned more than two times more from turmeric than from coffee. Eventually, crops like turmeric and ginger may even replace coffee in the areas most exposed to climate change.

Farmer wellbeing is increasingly linked to resilience. We believe our clients’ painstaking work of training and building market access, farmer by farmer, will lead to greater resilience in farming communities around the world. Together with you, we look forward to accompanying them in that work.


Learn more about the role that agricultural businesses can play in helping farmers adapt to climate change.


Topics: Environment |

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