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Silo Busting: Integrating Climate Adaptation and Food Security

May 22, 2019

Challenges in areas ranging from education to the environment, gender to governance, health to housing don’t exist in a vacuum. Each month, Abt experts from two disciplines explore ideas for tackling these challenges in our monthly podcast, The Intersect. Sign up for monthly e-mail notifications here. Catch up with previous episodes here.

Climate adaptation. Agriculture. Sustainability. They’re interconnected, but often addressed independently. Abt’s Sarah Kozyn and Lorine Giangola ask what if they combined their work with clients such as Feed the Future and CEADIR to address these issues holistically. We hope you'll join us at The Intersect:

Read the Transcript:

Eric Tischler: Hi, and welcome to The Intersect. Today I'm joined by Sarah Kozyn and Lorine Giangola. Sarah is the technical project officer on USAID's integrated community agriculture and nutrition activity in Uganda and the Feed the Future Egypt Rural Agribusiness Strengthening project. She provides intermittent support and market development—and monitoring and evaluation—for the Cambodia Harvest II project in the Feed the Future Bangladesh nutrition activity. As co-lead of Abt’s food security and agriculture focus area, she develops technical strategies for new business opportunities in agriculture, economic growth and nutrition.

Lorine is joining us from Abt's Boulder, Colorado office. She's Abt's project manager for USAID's C5+1 adaptation project in central Asia. She also manages multiple activities under the USAID climate, economic analysis for development, investment in resilience activity or CEADIR. Through these projects, Lorine is working with governments in developing countries to provide support for adaptation planning and implementation in agriculture and other national resources sectors. Thank you both for joining me.

Sarah Kozyn: Thank you for having us.

Lorine Giangola: Thank you for inviting us Eric.

Eric: Sarah, can we talk briefly about what you're doing with Feed the Future?

Sarah: Sure. So in the past few years, Abt has really been growing our portfolio in the Feed the Future project funded by USAID. So we currently have a number of really, really interesting projects that are merging interesting approaches in market systems development, in social and behavior change and in resilience.

One project I'm working on is based in Egypt. It's the Feed the Future Egypt Rural Agribusiness Strengthening project and we are working with agribusinesses and small holder farmers and trying to incorporate small farmers into the supply chains of Egypt's already very developed horticulture sector. And it's really interesting work. That project just started six months ago and we're really excited about some results that we're seeing.

Eric: That's great. Lorine, how about you? You want to talk about what you're doing with CEADIR?

Lorine: Yes. So, through USAID's CEADIR project, we are working with multiple developing countries to support their national adaptation planning processes and to help them develop their national adaptation plans and finance those plans. We're doing similar work through the USAID's C5+1 adaptation project, which is focused on the Central Asia region and where we work with the five central Asia republics. So, through this work we have a chance to work closely with decision makers to prioritize their adaptation strategies in multiple sectors, including in agriculture and other natural resources sectors.

Eric: So Sarah, you want to talk a bit about how Lorine's work on the sustainability side dovetails with the work that you're doing?

Sarah: Yeah, so it's incredibly germane and important. One of the intermediate results or expected results of USAID's—and the U.S. government's—global food security strategy is to increase productivity, especially through climate-smart approaches. And what that means is you're trying to achieve increases in yields and have ultimate impact at the farmer and at the small holder farmer level. But doing that in a way that is still preserving and protecting the environment to as much of an extent as possible.

Eric: Is that something you're typically tasked with or is that usually another part of the pipeline?

Sarah: It can be both. Sometimes there are projects that focus specifically on conservation, agriculture and climate smart approaches and resilience specifically related to agriculture and climate intersects. And other times we see kind of a project like we have [now] that's focused on productivity, increases and kind of economic growth impacts merged into the same project.

Eric: So Lorine, how about you? Obviously you're working on resilience, that adaptation. To what extent are you working with actual food production?

Lorine: Well, many of our current projects don't work directly in the field at the farm scale or at the landscape scale; right now we're focused more on working at the national level with ministry staff, with other technical staff who will be managing agricultural programs and adaptation strategies in the agriculture sector.

Eric: Right. So is there room for you guys to team up then? If you need to get closer to the people on the ground, literally, how does that work with what you're doing, Sarah?

Sarah: Yeah. We do some work directly with governments in terms of encouraging policy dialogue or helping to get certain laws passed or help with implementation of certain laws, and so we do see our direct agriculture, Feed the Future work, working at that systems level as well.

But I think there are a lot more synergies that we can be drawing on, especially since our colleagues on the CEADIR project, for example, are working with governments directly to develop these national adaptation plans, and ministries of agriculture have a seat at that table during that process. So, more collaboration kind of between us and in those processes will I think benefit projects kind of that are happening in both sectors.

Eric: So Lorene, does that sound like an opportunity for you to sort of come to the table in a new capacity or a new context?

Lorine: Absolutely. I think there is a lot of opportunity for working both at the national scale, or at the broader policy scale, and bridging all of that work to the field scale. One of the things that I think is very encouraging about working in agricultural adaptation is that we really understand the technical solutions to managing our grow ecosystems for environmental quality, for sustainable production and for building resilience to climate impacts and adapting the systems to climate variability and climate change.

And it doesn't really matter if you're working in a cornfield in Iowa or a wheat field in Australia or a sorghum field in Bestahel, we really understand how to manage landscapes for environmental quality. Oof course, the specific practices that you implement highly depend on the landscape context, but we have a good understanding of how to manage these projects. So, bridging the policy level and the decision makers and bringing them to the table to help manage the programs and build the institutional structures and processes that they need to implement these highly effective technical solutions is a really key area where we can join forces and where actions, I think, make a big difference.

Sarah: And, just jumping off of that, I think there are opportunities for us as well, just in terms of how we're approaching and measuring our success or our challenges on these projects. For example, if we are trying to increase productivity through climate smart approaches, I noticed that on some of our projects we aren't necessarily, we're measuring yield increases and adoption of new technologies but maybe we aren't drilling down into some of the more specific climate assessment or measurement methodologies that folks on your team have been using. And so I think there might be opportunities for us to collaborate on that as well.

Lorine: Definitely, Sarah, I think that's a great point. And I think another encouraging aspect of working on agricultural adaptation is that you don't need long-term expensive, highly complex monitoring and evaluation systems to understand if agricultural conservation practices are effective. Certainly useful to have those kinds of data; in many sophisticated agricultural systems, we do have that kind of valuable data. But if we're working, particularly in the international scene and working with developing countries, they don't necessarily have the time or the resources to invest in those kinds of programs. But we, with a trained eye can look at an agricultural landscape and understand whether our conservation practices are contributing to climate resilience. And I think bridging some of those ecological monitoring and evaluation practices with some of the other human and social evaluation programs that Abt has in place, we could really have a really comprehensive approach to not only designing and implementing adaptation systems, but to monitoring and evaluating their impact.

Eric: Very cool. So, I mean that sounds like a pretty holistic take. Is it safe to say that we feel food security and environment should be coming to the table together, maybe in the future, hopefully? And combine those skills for clients to help give them a one stop solution?

Sarah: Definitely.

Lorine: Definitely.

Eric: Well, great. Thank you both so much for joining us.

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