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Getting Smart About Climate and Agriculture


Beautifully tended agro-ecological farm, Marracuene, Mozambique. (Photo: Timothy A. Wise)

Beautifully tended agro-ecological farm, Marracuene, Mozambique. (Photo: Timothy A. Wise)

Originally published on Medium, March 17, 2019

In Mozambique’s lovely capital city of Maputo, the afternoon temperature had just hit 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Maputo is in the tropics, but this was October 2017, their springtime, and no one could remember a hotter October day. Inside the air-conditioned Radisson Blu Hotel on the city’s waterfront, African government representatives and international experts gathered for the African Union’s annual agricultural research conference. Organized by the Washington-based International Food Policy Research Institute, these conferences monitor and support African governments’ ambitious commitments since 2006 to invest in agricultural development. Well-dressed participants sipped bottled water and took on the theme for this year’s conference: “Climate-Smart Agriculture.”

The day before I’d been with farmers in Marracuene, just 45 minutes up the coast from Maputo. They weren’t embracing the experts’ climate-smart initiatives but rather defending themselves from them. They wanted no part of synthetic fertilizer, which was labeled climate-smart even though it came from fossil fuels. Small-scale family farmers often referred to such practices, and the “technology package” of which they were a part, as “climate-stupid agricultu