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Biochar Enhances the Capacity of Climate-Smart Agriculture to Mitigate Climate Change

Handbook of Climate Change Management: Research, Leadership, Transformation

Nyambo, P., Mupambwa, H. A., & Nciizah, A. D.

January 2021

Climate change is likely to have dire effects on biodiversity, agricultural productivity, and production stability among resource-poor African farmers. The reliance on rainfall for food production increases smallholder farmer’s risk to the effects of climate change due to their low capacity for adaptation. Climate change affects the livelihood and food security of smallholder farmers by increasing global temperatures and reducing the frequency and predictability of precipitation, which creates huge abiotic stresses during crop production. Moreover, the traditional farming practices have not focused on the soil as a resource which has created an environment that encourages soil degradation, hence the recent drive towards adoption of climate smart technologies as a solution. While climate-smart agriculture (CSA) strategies such as conservation agriculture, which increase farmers’ capacity to adapt and mitigate climate change effects, have been widely researched on and recommended, adoption of all the three pillars has mostly been low among African smallholder farmers. Farmers often fail to embrace residue retention as an integral component of the technology due to competing uses of the crop residues. Questions that arise therefore include: What happens if farmers manage crop residues differently in farming systems? Will it help farmers to mitigate and adapt to climate change effects? Biochar could play a role in sustainable intensification and climate-smart agriculture, through its potential in strengthening the resilience of smallholder farmers agricultural systems. Our chapter highlights current research and potential benefits of the biochar technology as a residue management strategy under CSA practices, which creates a win-win situation on crop-livestock farming setup. Research on the benefits of converting crop residues into a carbon-stable compound, biochar, is also presented, highlighting areas requiring future research in the African context.

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