Climate change is already exacerbating food insecurity and threatening the lives and livelihoods of vulnerable farmers. Global demand for food will increase by 50% and average agricultural yields may decline by 30% by 2050. The 300 million small-scale farming households in developing countries face the greatest challenges, as they are often the most exposed to climate impacts and have the least access to resources. 

Creating sustainable, equitable and resilient food systems is vital to supporting the livelihoods of the millions of small-scale agricultural producers and the billions more who rely on the food they produce. WRI is working to promote integration of local perspectives in research and innovation agendas, catalyze investment in innovative digital technologies that empower and support food producers and advance transformative approaches to adaptation in the most at-risk places. 

WRI’s work with creating climate-resilient agriculture falls into three areas: 

1. Advancing Transformative Adaptation  

Nearly one billion people live in countries that lack the resilience to manage the climate change impacts expected between now and 2050. Failure to act on these changes could result in catastrophic food insecurity for hundreds of millions of people. In climate change hotspots, incremental adaptation measures, while essential, will be increasingly insufficient to avert loss and damage within farming and herding communities.

In these areas, transformative adaptation will be needed. WRI’s research and analysis encourage governments, researchers and funders to begin planning to shift where specific types of crops and livestock are produced; align agricultural production with changing landscapes and ecosystems; and introduce innovative production methods and technologies to promote long-term resilience.

Through its work on transformative adaptation for agriculture, WRI will continue strengthening a community of adaptation thinkers and actors that recognize the need for radical shifts in agri-food systems. WRI will also build the evidence and tools needed for transformative decision-making in climate-sensitive agri-food systems, as well as co-develop and mobilize innovative finance models that support sustainable, equitable agri-food transitions for climate resilience.

2. Catalyzing Demand-driven Agendas for Research and Innovation  

WRI is working to make agricultural research and development agendas more inclusive, locally led, climate-informed and risk-aware, while ensuring that more stakeholders can access solutions that will impact lives and societies. We do this by supporting initiatives like CGIAR’s flagship climate adaptation program, the Two Degree Initiative, which aims to improve the climate resilience of 200 million small-scale agricultural producers worldwide. To better understand the perspectives, needs and priorities of small-scale producers, WRI and CGIAR captured key findings from over 50 listening sessions, engaging nearly 1,500 stakeholders in 60 countries. 

3. Scaling Digital Climate Advisory Services  

WRI is engaging with governments, private sector investors and other donors to mobilize investment in digital climate advisory services (DCAS). Through services that bundle weather and climate information with adaptation solutions, DCAS can help food system stakeholders identify and react to climate-related threats, as well as provide access to markets, inputs, finance and insurance.  

WRI and partners co-created a blueprint to facilitate quality investment in DCAS for 300 million small-scale producers. Next steps could include developing a prototype model for digital services for governments and entrepreneurs, along with metrics, standards and impact indicators.  

Photo Credit: ©2015 CIAT/NeilPalmer