ot only is there a wealth of evidence to support the need for climate action, including climate-smart agriculture, but climate finance is increasing and so too is public awareness.
Yet there is one element still lacking, which will continue to thwart climate justice and food security unless it is overcome. We must bridge the gaps between those with the solutions to transform our food systems, those who can fund and implement them, and those who increasingly need them.
This means going beyond Greta Thunberg’s call to “unite behind the science” and instead unite policy and practice with research to ensure science works for the good of all.
In the Netherlands, we call this “match-making” and events like last week's Global Science Conference on Climate-Smart Agriculture are essential to deliver that message and make sure partners can find each other.
The big opportunity at such conferences and summits is not for scientists to highlight where more research is needed or showcase the latest findings of pilot studies, but rather to collaborate and develop “bankable” and “scalable” projects that allow for real-life implementation on the ground.
For the 800 million people worldwide still going hungry, many of whom in regions worst-hit by extreme weather, policy notes and research papers are meaningless unless they translate to well-supported, well-delivered initiatives.
One such practical project that the Netherlands has funded is a five-year initiative to reach 300,000 smallholders across East Africa with climate-smart practices to boost agribusiness and sustainable food production by 2022.
Convened by the CGIAR program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), Climate Resilient Agribusiness for Tomorrow (CRAFT) is implemented by Dutch non-profit SNV with the support of Wageningen University, Agriterra and Rabo Partnerships.
This €40 million project has the potential to transform the lives of hundreds of thousands of smallholder farmers by helping them to produce more while coping with climate change. But it could not take place without the funding, the know-how and the logistical support of those on the ground.
Another project that got off the ground thanks to collaboration between different players is a program that works with dairy farmers in West Java, Indonesia to make use of the circular economy to reduce emissions.
Researchers identified that average dairy farm in Lembang, West Java emits 33 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year, the same as the annual energy use of four homes. A survey of 300 farmers also found 80 per cent were releasing at least some cattle manure into the environment.
With this evidence, it was possible to implement targeted training sessions, demonstrations and outreach with dairy farmers to encourage them to use cattle manure as fertilizer and reduce the environmental footprint of their operations.
These are just two examples of where real results were possible thanks to the matches made between scientists and practitioners, funders, private sector and implementers.
For every challenge posed by the trade-offs between food production and environmental impact, there are often multiple possible solutions depending on who you ask.
What we as governments want to see is a focus on how we can listen to one another to find ways to implement some of these solutions at scale beyond conferences.
Our objective is to match the people with the solutions with those who need them. For that to happen, policymakers, farmers, financial institutions, private sector and scientists need to learn to understand each other’s language and then walk the talk.