A framework for priority-setting in climate smart agriculture research
This article (PDF), in the Agricultural Systems journal, proposes a framework for prioritising agricultural research investments across scales and review different approaches to setting priorities among agricultural research projects. Climate-smart agriculture (CSA) is widely promoted as an approach for reorienting agricultural development under the realities of climate change. Prioritising research-for-development activities is crucial, given the need to utilise scarce resources as effectively as possible. Several aspects make it challenging to prioritise CSA research. A first challenge is that the importance of evaluation and analysis at multiple scales is critical: viable CSA interventions need to provide benefits at different spatial and temporal scales. Priority setting that explicitly addresses both long-term uncertainty as well as shorter-term climatic variability is rare. Second, priority setting of CSA research might best be seen as an iterative process rather than a one-off activity. For CSA evaluation, learning cycles may be particularly important, for helping to ensure that options are not dismissed too early in the prioritisation process, and for avoiding lock-in to a limited set of strategies or technologies that may turn out to be sub-optimal or mal-adaptive over longer time scales. The third challenge is that no one method is likely to be adequate in most situations; a mixture of different quantitative and qualitative methods, integrated in different ways, will usually be needed to deal with the special nature of CSA, where it is often packages of interventions that are being evaluated. Many priority-setting case studies address the short- to medium-term and at relatively local scales. This article suggests that a mix of actions that span spatial and temporal time scales is needed to ensure CSA research effectiveness, be adaptive to a changing climate, address immediate problems and create enabling conditions for enduring change. The proposed framework has six simple elements as a “map” to guide prioritisation.