Who has the keys? How accessibility opens doors for climate action in agriculture
In the past week, as I reflect on the Earth Month Activation Program and the question of accessibilities influence on climate action in agriculture, I am reminded of the well-used metaphor of keys.
I often lose my keys. Or think I have lost my keys. There comes a moment of panic, frantic searching, and then some embarrassment which follows when it turns out they have been in my pocket the whole time. Next it is time to lock the house, jump in the car, and ask ‘Where to next?’
Participating in the Earth Month Activation program has felt a bit like being handed some keys. Suddenly there are some new ways of thinking I have been able to access. New knowledge about how to plan, how to communicate, and how to lead. Having access to these ideas, tools, and a new vision, I feel somewhat compelled to use them. Put them into action.
I wonder if this is not the same as for disparate agriculture communities globally. How does access unlock for them the ability to enact climate solutions? Let me draw on my learnings from Activation Program to suggest three ways for how accessibility is the key to creating spaces for climate action in agriculture.
Accessibility starts with Visibility of climate solutions
There is a saying, ‘you don’t know what you don’t know.’ Before agricultural communities can put climate solutions into action, they need access, and before they can access solutions, they need to know such solutions exist. The first barrier to overcome is one of visibility for the solutions themselves.
In many cases this is the role of extension and innovations systems within agriculture communities, where knowledge, resources, and capacity are built and shared. In other contexts, members of agricultural communities are taking climate action into their own hands and pre-emptively developing their own climate solutions.
In my role as a research assistant, working alongside team members in an ACIAR project in Pakistan, I am currently exploring this very junction. ‘How can farm advisors facilitate smallholder household adoption of farm management practices that build their resilience in the face of climate variability?’ and ‘How can our team communicate success stories for trialled climate solutions?’ we ask.
In response we have sought to develop a digital communications strategy targeted at farm advisors uses social media platforms to communicate success stories, share project updates, provide resources, and gather feedback.
It is still early days, but we have found a key. Now we just need to try the locks.
Accessibility creates Opportunity for change
Once climate solutions are known and accessible, the challenge becomes finding a climate solution that appropriately matches the socio-economic and biophysical context. Having access to different solutions opens more options and requires more knowledge of the context to find a best fit. ‘What type of agricultural system is it?’ and ‘what climate impacts does it face?’ are just some of the questions that uncover what actions can be taken. Underlying these questions may be different assumptions about the future.
This is why involving producers in the development of climate solutions is so important. It has been noted that “we can better connect knowledge and action via co-learning that links closely the users and producers of climate information so as to address the correct time and spatial scales and climate variables and embed this information into the social and institutional processes through which decisions are made.”
Working from the ground up, with producers and users means that we can identify their drivers and values. Understanding the visions of different stakeholders allows us to address the challenges and opportunities of climate adaptation and influence climate action for impact.
Accessibility leading to Influence
As part of RAID’s Earth Month, I had an opportunity to interview Dr. Natalie Doran-Browne on her work developing measuring and reporting processes as a basis for agricultural emission-reduction options to support the UN-required Nationally Determined Contributions for Fiji and Vietnam. Hearing about the significance of this work in increasing the voice of Fiji and Vietnam at UN climate roundtables, I was reminded that access to climate solutions is itself a form of power.
For Pacific Island and South Asian nations, facing some of the most significant threats from climate change, access to funding and resources for implementing climate solutions can be influenced by their capacity to demonstrate their commitment to reducing emissions to nations emitting far more CO2 equivalents. In this case, developing inventory processes is an action that establishes nations like Fiji and Vietnam in the global dialogue and consequently supports access to solutions and climate action.
In participatory research like that of Dr. Doran-Browne’s, with researchers from Fiji, Vietnam, New Zealand, Indonesia, and Kenya all involved, the accessibility of experts and the collaboration between them has accelerate the pace of development for climate action for vulnerable regions.
Reflecting on this, I am struck by how shared visions and collaboration on climate action can stem from shared resources and expertise. It is up to those with the keys; with access to the knowledge, resources, and capacity to enact climate solutions; to open doors for others. That includes me.
I have been given some keys. Now I have the ability to use them to make climate solutions visible, work to fit solutions in context, and create opportunities for others to access keys until it’s their turn to ask: ‘where to next?’
 Eckard, Richard. (2020). Australia’s farmers want more climate action – and they’re starting in their own (huge) backyards. The Conversation.
 ACIAR. (2021). Inventory ‘cart’ to come before mitigation options. ACIAR.
Image: by Jaye Haych at Unsplash.