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3 things you can do to make a difference:

Climate-Smart Agriculture

The Challenges

The smallholder and indigenous communities in developing countries that depend on farming for their livelihoods are among the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Extreme weather, pest outbreaks, droughts and shorter growing seasons destabilize local farming communities and compromise their resilience to climate disasters. For example, “coffee rust”—a destructive fungus that attacks coffee plants—is wreaking havoc on farms in several regions of Guatemala and Honduras, a crisis that many scientists link to climate change.

These and a host of other challenges underscore the fact that current agricultural approaches—such as getting farmers to understand the need to adopt new practices in the midst of rapidly shifting conditions; engaging industry leaders and creating market incentives to support farmers’ efforts; and educating consumers on the role they can play—must be improved in order to prepare for the climatic uncertainties we all face.

The Rainforest Alliance is working to transform agriculture in order to reduce its enormous impact on the world’s forests and climatic conditions:

  • Eighty percent of deforestation is driven by agricultural expansion1
  • The conversion of forests to cropland produces significant greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
  • Approximately half of all the world’s methane and nitrous oxide emissions come from livestock and the use of nitrogen fertilizers.

The global population—projected to reach nine billion by the year 2050—creates urgent pressure to increase the production of food, fiber and fuel, and agricultural expansion. Preventing a catastrophic loss of forestland will require a profound transformation in the agricultural sector.

What We’re Doing

The Rainforest Alliance Certified™ seal is only awarded to farms that meet the rigorous standard of the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN), which encourages farmers to analyze and alleviate environmental and social risks through a process of continual improvement. In this way, certification provides farmers with many tools to reduce GHG emissions and prepare for shifting climatic conditions. The Rainforest Alliance also promotes “climate-smart” agricultural methods that build upon the foundation of certification. Using these strategies, farmers can enhance carbon sequestration, increase productivity and resilience, and better prepare for climate-related risks.

We work with farmers to accomplish these goals in a variety of ways:

  • The Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) standard—a set of rigorous environmental and social criteria farms must meet to become Rainforest Alliance Certified™—has always included climate-smart practices that protect native ecosystems, avoid deforestation, maintain healthy soils and decrease the use of energy, water and agrochemicals. Rainforest Alliance certification is a powerful tool for creating climate-smart landscapes. Learn more about the SAN criteria through our online training platform.
  • In collaboration with our SAN partners, the Rainforest Alliance developed the SAN Climate Module, which goes even further in helping farmers mitigate and adapt to climate change. Those who comply with the module’s additional criteria reduce their nitrous-oxide and methane emissions; maintain and increase carbon stocks on their farms by planting and/or conserving trees or other woody biomass; and implement planning systems to assess climate risk and make their farms more resilient.
  • We provide technical assistance and guidance to farmers and businesses to help them develop innovative climate-smart agriculture and agroforestry projects:
    • In Mexico, we are helping hundreds of smallholder coffee farmers develop a community-based agroforestry project that combats deforestation and climate change by restoring the landscape and improving farm productivity.
    • In Ghana, we work with thousands of smallholder cocoa farmers on community agroforestry initiatives that produce both climate and social benefits.
    • And in Uganda, we’ve partnered with Taylors of Harrogate to implement climate-smart practices on smallholder farms to increase their resiliency.
  • We collaborate with carbon standard organizations—such as the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance—to help make credible carbon certification more feasible for smallholders and improve farmers’ access to carbon financing.
  1. Source: Kissinger, G., M. Herold, V. De Sy. Drivers of Deforestation and Forest Degradation: A Synthesis Report for REDD+ Policymakers. Lexeme Consulting, Vancouver Canada, August 2012.


3 things you can do to make a difference:

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