Deconstructing climate smart agriculture : why resource distribution and power matter in addressing climate change in Colombia

Zavala, Patricia Ann
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The focus of this thesis is on farmers and climate-focused agricultural development. This thesis first describes the objectives international development framework called Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) which aims to improve farmers’ livelihoods, increase resiliency to climate change while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It then explains the evolution of the CSA approach and prevailing criticisms. Using an in-depth case study of three farming communities in Colombia and insights from interviews of IGO staff instrumental in the conceptualization of CSA, I find that CSA promulgated by the major IGO’s such as the UN Food and Agriculture Organization often overlooks the role that resource distribution and power plays for smallholder farmers that are attempting to adapt to climate change. This leads to numerous problems in CSA implementation and has practical implications for sustainability and success. Qualitative fieldwork provides observations that suggest that the countries in the Global North benefit disproportionately from CSA policies, which thus far have not disrupted the systemic inequalities in food trade and international agricultural policies that perpetuate dependencies in the Global South. I argue that CSA is misguided in its attempt to improve farmers’ livelihoods. The CSA concept overlooks the context of the political infrastructure, reifies systemic inequalities and thus has little positive consequence or impact, especially for farmers that are engaged in broader struggles for equitable resource distribution and food sovereignty. I provide a recommendation to modify the CSA concept to improve outcomes.