Conservation Agriculture Holds Considerable Promise to Help Agricultural Livelihood Systems Coping with Climate Change: ICARDA’s Experience
Around one-third of the global population depends on dryland agriculture for food security and livelihoods. In addition to common challenges (such as natural resources degradation, poverty), climate change is exacerbating the situation. Therefore, cost-effective and environment-friendly options that could improve the efficiency and the sustainability of agricultural livelihood systems have to be developed. Agricultural farming under Conservation Agriculture (CA) holds considerable promise to help farmers cope with climate change and to improve their incomes. CA is spread over 155 million ha, 24% of which had been achieved during the past four years. It is based on three main principles: i) No, or minimum soil disturbance, ii) Soil cover, and iii) Crop diversity. CA is potentially applicable in most agroecosystems and CA is being recognized more widely as an approach for sustainable production intensification that offers enhancement of productivity with improved resilience and climate change adaptability and mitigation. It promotes resilience to climate change by increasing water availability to the crop and rooting depth. Indeed, CA alters water balance in the short- and long-term through decreased soil and water evaporation and increased infiltration rate, soil water holding capacity and aggregate stability.