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  • South Asia gets climate-smart learning platform

[KATHMANDU] A new learning platform aims to facilitate the sharing of 'climate-smart' agriculture practices that address growing concerns about food security, climate change adaptation and mitigation in South Asia.

The Climate Smart Agriculture Learning Platform for South Asia was launched last month (23 April) by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).

It will provide opportunities for scientists, policy planners, civil society, and farmers in South Asia to collaborate and share expertise.

"This platform is designed to facilitate the science–policy–people interface in South Asia, and to work as a clearing house for climate-smart agricultural practices," said Pramod Aggarwal, CCAFS regional programme leader for South Asia.

The initiative will include annual meetings of policymakers, academics, and farmers in South Asian countries, and quarterly e-newsletters to help strengthen farmers' resilience and encourage efficient consumption of resources such as energy and water.  

Examples of climate smart initiatives include providing weather data to farmers via mobile phones, index-based insurance schemes, development of salt- and drought-tolerant rice varieties, and rainwater harvesting.

"We have to ensure … that knowledge flows two ways — top-down and bottom-up," Dhrupad Choudhury, coordinator of the International Fund for Agriculture Development at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, in Nepal, told SciDev.Net.

Last year, Choudhury conducted research in villages across the Himalayas and found low levels of communication between communities on adaptive responses to climate change; limited access to even local-level decision-makers; and insufficient flow of technical knowledge.

He added that CGIAR's research expertise, for example of stress-tolerant seeds, is needed at the community level.

"Just launching a central platform is not enough — if it doesn't reach communities it won't be beneficial," said Krishna Lamsal, programme officer at Local Initiatives for Biodiversity, Research and Development, a Nepal-based non-governmental organisation.

He proposed disseminating information in the local language.

Other options could include non-written forms of communication and boosting interactions between similar existing grassroots networks, according to Atiq Rahman, executive director of the Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies.

Choudhury agreed that there was a need for "partnerships where the two [scales of initiatives] come together".

The creation of the platform follows a meeting on climate smart agriculture in Asia in Bangkok, Thailand, last month (11–12 April), attended by leading agriculture, climate and development experts, and government representatives, from 14 countries in South and South-East Asia.

It will be followed by the Bonn Climate Change Conference, in Germany, later this month (14–25 May), which is building up to the 18th UN Climate Change Conference (COP 18) to be held in Doha, Qatar, in November.