Multi-displinary teams bring agricultural adaptation to climate change in China

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A shorter version of this lesson has been featured on the booklet produced by the MDG-F Environment and Climate Change window "Seeds of Knowledge - Contributing to Climate Change Solutions". - Read more about the booklet or download it in English / Spanish / French / Arabic.

Contents

Summary

Climate change impacts on plant and animal phenology, crop structure and agricultural production, are resulting in adverse effects to the agricultural economy in the Yellow River Basin in China. Agriculture in the region faces several challenges, including the degradation of natural resources, competition for resources with other sectors and large urban-rural disparities in economic development.

The China JP chose to address these challenges by introducing agricultural practices that are both environmentally sound and resilient to climate change impacts. This involved both policy level and field level work.

In our experience, we found that one of the most useful and effective tools at our disposal was the use of multi-disciplinary teams, which comprised not just of experts in the field of agriculture but also specialists in water management, climate change, environment and economics and climate change. These teams are effective developing comprehensive solutions to sustainable and climate resilient agricultural production. The lesson learnt, which can be of use to others who would like to implement similar changes in climate-resilient and environmentally sound agricultural production (C-RESAP) is to emphasize the establishment of such multi-disciplinary teams.

Purpose of the activity

The CCPF introduced practices for climate-resilient and environmentally sound agricultural production (C-RESAP) in the Yellow River Basin and from this proposed potential policy support options to the Chinese Government. C-RESAP is agricultural production in which, taking into consideration climate change threats and the status of natural resources, yields are maximised, emissions and waste are reduced, negative impacts to ecosystems are minimised and the resulting agricultural products are safe.

Original issue addressed by the activity

The Yellow River is the second longest river in China and the sixth longest river in the world. For some years the Yellow River basin (YRB) has been experiencing environmental degradation and socio-economic challenges. Population pressure has accelerated the degradation of resources from the expansion of agriculture on the loess plateau, where soil erosion has increased. Deforestation is also a problem in the area. Impoverished farmers are migrating to the cities.

Irrigated agriculture in the region covers 10% of the total area but consumes 95% of the water resources. Downstream, agriculture and ecosystems suffer from water shortages. Water availability for agriculture in the YRB is increasingly threatened by rapid growth in the demand for industrial and urban water, the need to flush sediment from the river’s lower reaches, other environmental demands and growing water pollution. Climate change is affecting the already fragile water resource supply, changing the conditions for crop growth, affecting crop yield and is, moreover, likely to change the distribution of crop species.

Strategy chosen to address the issue

The introduction of a C-RESAP approach was initially chosen. In order to facilitate this, national and local multidisciplinary teams were formed covering different disciplines. This was an excellent step towards collaboration among different institutions since CAAS invited members from CAS, CASS and universities to participate in the project as members of the national multidisciplinary team. The strategy chosen was to:

  • Improve coordination mechanisms between different institutions and levels of work;
  • Research and analyse the challenges that the agriculture sector face in relation to climate change and natural resource use;
  • Conduct a comprehensive needs and environmental assessment to identify the set of C-RESAP practices that could also be employed in these and similar regions.
  • Providing farmers and field technicians with the opportunity to participate in field demonstrations and learn about C-RESAP practices;
  • Train authorities, farmers and field technicians to better understand the challenges posed by climate change and natural resource degradation and empower them to look for potential ways to improve agriculture.
  • Prepare four Provincial Action Plans with technical and policy recommendations on how to make agriculture less polluting, more productive and resilient to climate change.

Implementation of the strategy

The national MDT was constituted during the inception meeting and provincial MDTs in Ningxia, Shaanxi, Henan and Shandong provinces shortly afterwards. The team comprised of experts from the Government as well as different research institutes and universities with experience in agriculture, resource use planning, climate change, information management, knowledge transfer, extension and socioeconomic issues. These teams were responsible for implementing all activities at the provincial level, including delivery of training, demonstrations, provision of technical advice and extension services. They compiled situational analysis reports using information on the Yellow River Basin, in particular focused on biophysical, socioeconomic and technological aspects provided from different stakeholders. The situation analysis report will be provided to stakeholders for suggestions and improvement.

Challenges and Innovations

Interventions tackling agricultural production need to be in sync with the crop cycle, a late programme start (in the middle of the year instead of January) meant a major reorganization of demonstration work.

Results and Impacts

Teams developed situational analyses regarding agricultural production, climate change and pollution threats in the four pilot provinces. Such studies also found evidence of a decline in water resources; over-extraction of groundwater; loss of soil fertility; salinisation; and soil and water pollution from excessive use of fertilizers.

Climate-resilient and environmentally sound agricultural practices were identified and demonstrated to more than 1,100 farming households, 400 technicians and 140 local authorities in 13 pilot sites across the four pilot provinces. A comprehensive training programme was introduced to the authorities, farmers and field technicians, to help adapt to climate change and reduce pollution from agriculture. In total, 260 authorities, 1,500 farmers and 400 field technicians received training;

Provincial Action Plans for C-RESAP were formulated in the four pilot provinces, with the participation of farmers, field technicians, researchers and authorities.

Evidence

Based on the needs assessments, practices identified and demonstrated in each of the pilot sites, four Provincial Action Plans were developed with the technical and policy recommendations on sustainable agriculture.

Next Steps

Describe any planned next steps in implementation or corrective action as a result of this good lesson learned. Inter-agency relationships established through the programme have allowed for better communication and coordination on C-RESAP in future.

Potential replication / application

As a direct result, four Provincial Action Plans were developed as abovementioned with technical and policy recommendations which would be relevant to agricultural production in many other areas in China and were shared in a national-level workshop.

Given the broad-reaching impacts that climate change has on different parts of society and the economy, from our successful experience we recommend a multi-disciplinary approach would be useful in other areas of tackling other aspects of climate change adaptation.

Specifically with respect to implementation of C-RESAP activities, we also found that there are certain aspects to be taken into consideration. In identifying pilot sites for such demonstrations there are abovementioned many challenges, for example, synchronization with crop cycles which means activities can be delayed easily by bad weather. Given the constraints posed by the unknown factors, it is extremely important identify farmers and technicians who have a very strong interest and are committed to improving their agricultural practices given that multiple trainings need to be delivered over a long period of time. Awareness raising is very important in this regard.

Information products

This lesson learnt has been adapted from “The China Climate Change Partnership Framework Occasional Paper”.

For full details of the situational reports, action plans and climate-resilient and environmentally sound agricultural practices developed please see http://cpesap.net.

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