by Inovatiesteunpunt – Innovation Centre for Agricultural and Rural Development, embedded within Boerenbond & Landelijke Gilden

Description

Climate change is strongly felt by Flemish farmers due to periods of extreme weather events. The last two Summers were extremely hot and dry, while the Summer of 2016 was extremely wet. The Flemish farmers suffered from falling yields and uncertain harvests. On this point, for Flemish farmers, it is not clear how they could run their farm in a more climate-friendly way. Lists of climate measures are available, but the impact of the implementation on the company economics and on other environmental aspects (like acidification, for example) is unclear. Innovatiesteunpunt together with ILVO and Vito developed an answer to this: the Klimrek project. In Klimrek, partners develop an innovative strategy that allows the farmer to implement the right set of climate measures on his farm, taking into account their economic and technical feasibility. The right set of climate measures means effective measures that yield a net climate gain (reduction in CO2-eq) and safeguard the yield as much as possible in a changing climate. This is called ‘the climate trajectory’. The climate trajectory:

  1. gives the farmer an insight into the climate impact of his farm and into the consequences of climate change on his farm and
  2. provides the farmer with tailor-made guidance for taking the most suitable climate measures for him.

Farmers themselves choose which measure(s) they want to apply.
Klimrek differs from existing initiatives (for example carbon footprint calculators) in its total approach: it evaluates the ecological and economic performance and estimates economic feasibility, starts from life cycle analysis and avoids problem shifts, considers carbon storage, provides customized scenarios, analyses and recommendations for adapted business management, guides up to and includes implementation, and provides a benchmark set for companies and sectors.
The target group of Klimrek are the Flemish dairy farmers (6658), pig farmers (4145) and arable farmers (5610), supplemented by member organizations, sector associations, food industry, suppliers, governments, knowledge institutions and advisers.

Results

As a result, knowledge about climate impact generally increases and the threshold for implementing climate measures disappears. By rolling out the climate trajectory on a large scale, the transition to climate-smart agriculture is started.

Climate smartness*

It is worth highlighting the importance of capacity building and the empowerment of farmers around climate understanding and how to plan according to farmers’ needs and climate vulnerability. This initiative is knowledge-intensive on climate change impacts and consequences, which is one of the CSA indicators for adaptation. It is important to mention that agricultural practices become climate-smart once you link your planning, management and harvesting activities with climate behaviour, that is, the agricultural activities need to consider current climate vulnerabilities and potential agro-climatic risks given the weather forecast.

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*This is done in the framework of climate-smart agriculture (CSA) approach. Climate-smartness in agriculture means understanding impacts of climate change and variability along with the agricultural activity, which includes the planning of what crop to plant, when to plant, what variety to plant and what type of management practices are needed to reduce the impact on the environment (e.g. emissions reduction), maintain or increase productivity (e.g. yields) while increasing resilience and improving livelihoods.