Degree Name

MA in Sustainable Development

First Advisor

Jennifer Collins-Foley


Agriculture in the developing world will be extremely hard hit by climate change, and smallholder farmers in Least Developed Countries (LDCs) are among the most vulnerable to its impacts. There is a range of agricultural adaptations to climate change, and each context demands a unique appraisal of impacts and adaptations based on specific geography, local climate variability and expected change, and social conditions. The term “climate-smart agriculture” (CSA) has come to embody a set of practices in crop and livestock cultivation that 1) reduce greenhouse gas emissions (climate change mitigation), 2) build resilience to the impacts of climate change for farmers (climate change adaptation), and 3) boost agricultural productivity and farmer incomes (advancing food security). Agroforestry, a form of CSA, is a promising adaptation option for smallholder farmers throughout the developing world. The diverse adaptive benefits of agroforestry have been captured in case examples and scientific studies in developing countries in Asia, Africa, and Central and South America. This paper examines the emphasis on climate change mitigation through agriculture, pointing out that this is only a small additional benefit of climate-smart practices; the climate crisis will not be solved without far broader mitigation efforts targeting fossil fuel combustion. Further, focusing conversations about agriculture on climate change mitigation can take necessary attention away from the critical need to build resilience for the developing world’s vulnerable smallholder farmers via agroforestry and other types of CSA. Based on the benefits it provides, agroforestry offers an emerging opportunity for local, community-level adaptation to climate change. The “re-greening” movement in Africa’s Sahel region illustrates this point. Further, agroforestry promotes sustainable natural resource management and builds upon existing knowledge. Traditional knowledge needs to be actively sought out, thoroughly assessed, and acted upon. Successful adaptation policies via agroforestry bring together traditional knowledge of agroecological systems with modern scientific analysis and understanding of agroforestry’s potential in individual geographical settings. Finally, agroforestry is a case study in the potential for a balanced relationship between human beings and their natural surroundings; this principle will be critical to addressing the climate crisis in the long-term, and seeking a sustainable arrangement for the future of human life on earth.


Agricultural and Resource Economics | Family, Life Course, and Society | Natural Resources Management and Policy | Other Forestry and Forest Sciences | Sustainability | Work, Economy and Organizations