Reducing the carbon footprint of agro-food chains, both through production and land use, represents a critical opportunity for agricultural and global food security in the coming decades. Farmers are increasingly facing new challenges, including increased drought, changes in pest pressure and unpredictable weather patterns as global temperatures continue to rise. These factors threaten agriculture’s ability to improve global farm incomes, while meeting the increasing food demands of a growing population.

Public-private cooperation can create new solutions, as information and competence is gathered from around the world. Some examples are:

  • They can gather competence from spheres that do not ordinarily intersect;
  • they can expand and bring up to scale ‘small’ experimental solutions;
  • they can find funds to test scientific results in practice; and
  • they can conduct research in practice, via products that are tried and evaluated without delay by the farmer.

A number of stakeholders across the agro-food chain, including farmers, businesses, NGOs, and governments, are partnering up in order to rise to the challenges; working together to increase productivity, while improving adaptation and mitigation strategies. Comprehensive agricultural strategies that recognise the need to meet the demands of a growing world while reducing carbon emissions, require careful evaluation across the supply chain in order to determine what innovations and practices may yield the greatest impacts in meeting these goals. By scaling up already existing technologies that may aid the quest for resource efficiency and crop productivity, the food supply chain can have a significant and measurable impact on improving climate-smart food.

What are the benefits?

Climate change is an extremely complex issue; we need to improve knowledge of how our biological production systems will be affected and how we can limit emissions from this sector. There is also a great need for technological development, for example in new biofuels and an increased use of fibre. In order to take on these great challenges, we need new models and new alliances. Public-private partnerships that engage multiple stakeholders across the agro-food value chain are thus needed to reduce emissions at scale.

Furthermore, we have to work actively by presenting good examples regarding smart climate solutions and good practices in agriculture and forestry. Public-private partnership are an important tool to achieve this. By providing a support structure that utilises agricultural advisors, farmers should be able to pilot new methods and technologies. The best practices should thus be realised directly at the actual farms, where farmers should be given the opportunity to provide feedback, increasing the rate in which appropriate solutions are found. Farmers are often very positive about participatory driven research.

There are already good examples of public-private partnerships; an example is when farmers are aided in developing certification standards, resulting in better prices for their products. Resource efficiency measures are another example of a successful public-private partnership that has brought forth greater harvests with less input.

Public-private partnerships are key to the development of scalable solutions, as well as the sharing of knowledge and expertise between countries and sectors involved in the agro-food chain. They develop new, heretofore unexplored solutions, utilising a wide range of expertise, resources and shared knowledge that can be synthesied in new, useful and exciting ways for investments, innovation and education.

The need to mitigate and adapt to climate change is a great challenge facing the world today. There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution. However, globally shared knowledge and experiences can be one solution. We need to create space and opportunities where experts may contribute to the discussion concerning agriculture in the UNFCCC. Farmers all over the world have a desire to become involved in climate change solutions; this is just one important example of how it can be done.

Hilda Runsten is a climate expert at the Federation of Swedish Farmers, a member of the World Farmers Organisation