In a groundbreaking collaborative effort, the SAARC Agriculture Centre (SAC) of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and the International Food and Policy Research (IFPRI) South Asia recently organized a three-day Project Steering Committee (PSC) and Policy Roundtable Meetings from 27th to 29th October at Kandy in Sri Lanka. These meetings marked a significant stride in the Consortium for Scaling-up Climate-Smart Agriculture in South Asia (C-SUCSeS) Project, demonstrating the shared commitment of South Asian nations to address the challenges posed by climate change in agriculture. The meetings underscored the hope for a more resilient and sustainable agricultural landscape in South Asia, highlighting the importance of collaborative efforts in achieving this vision.

High-level delegates from SAARC member states, including Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka gathered to emphasize the importance of collective efforts in promoting climate-smart agriculture. The event served as a platform for key stakeholders to underscore the critical role of a united front in ensuring sustainable agriculture production vital for the food security of South Asia. This region is home to 25% of the world’s population and over 4% of its landmass.

The Honorable Minister of Agriculture and Plantation Industries of Sri Lanka, Mr. Mahinda Amaraweera graced the inaugural session as the chief guest, setting the tone for the importance of collaboration.  The Minister stressed in his speech that climate-smart agriculture necessitates the active involvement of all stakeholders from farmers to policymakers and international organizations.

The Minister emphasized the need for collective action to create a sustainable and resilient agricultural sector, envisioning a future where agriculture serves as a force for environmental stewardship.

Director General of the Department of Agriculture, Sri Lanka Ms. P. Malathy echoed this sentiment, recognizing the rich agricultural legacy of the region and emphasizing the imperative need for climate-smart agriculture practices. He highlighted the importance of transitioning to practices that are both environmentally responsible and economically sustainable.

Dr. Sheikh Mohammad Bakhtiar, Executive Chairman of Bangladesh Agricultural Council and the Chairman of the Project Steering Committee, provided insights into the genesis of the C-SUCSeS project, acknowledging the challenges faced during its initiation. He expressed gratitude to SDF, IFAD, and other donors for their support in building the Consortium of C-SUCSeS. Dr. Sheikh Bakhtiar discussed the project’s importance in the context of climate change, underlining the vulnerability of South Asian countries to its impacts and the crucial role of technology in mitigating these effects.

He paid tribute to Professor Swaminathan, a pioneer in revolutionary agriculture, and emphasized the critical importance of food and agriculture for a country’s development and peace.  Referring to his personal connection with the development of this network, Mr. Mohammad Bakhtear stated, “I spent three years convincing the member countries to establish this platform, and it took one year to deploy the focal points. Currently, there is no platform addressing this aspect of Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA), which is key to tackling the impacts of climate change in agriculture. C-SUCSeS is the only consortium on Climate Smart Agriculture across the globe. Therefore, scientists in the region are very interested in making this platform successful.”

Director, SAC & SDF, SAARC Secretariat, Kathmandu Mr. Jamal Uddin Ahmed, expressed gratitude for positive contributions from delegates and stressed the need for continuous collaboration and cooperation to combat the impacts of climate change. The meeting witnessed valuable lessons, challenges, and prospects from member states, setting the stage for fruitful discussions and actions.

The Director of SAC, Dr. Md. Baktear Hossain in his welcome speech, highlighted the importance of climate-smart agriculture technology in combating the impact of climate change. He addressed challenges related to behavior change, and institutional and policy change in CSA, emphasizing the project’s goals of 3I – Investment, Increased innovation, and Increased partnership.

As the C-SUCSeS project takes center stage in addressing climate change in the South Asian region, Mamata Pradhan, the Research Coordinator of IFPRI, discussed climate change and CSA, emphasizing the need for credible knowledge and identification of strategies based on the system. She highlighted its importance in upscaling Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA) practices.

The event also featured addresses from key figures, including Dr. Md. Ruhul Amin Talukder, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture in Bangladesh; Dr. Suresh Kumar Chaudhari, Deputy Director General, Indian Council of Agricultural Research in India;  Dr. Ghulam Muhammad Ali, Chairman, Pakistan Agricultural Research Council; Dr. Rajendra Prasad Mishra, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development, Nepal;  Mr. Yonten Gyamtsho, Director, Department of Agriculture, Bhutan; Mr. Ali Amir, Director of Agriculture, Maldives; and Mr. Kinzang Gyeltshen, Regional Programme Coordinator of C-SUCSeS Project, SAARC Agriculture Centre.

The C-SUCSeS project stands as a landmark initiative showcasing the collective commitment of governments, organizations, and individuals to build climate-resilient farming communities in the region. Through this consortium, the region is poised to pave the way for climate resilience in agriculture, ensuring food security and environmental sustainability for future generations.