(Climate)-Smart Agriculture: From and for Whom?

Monday, 16 July 2018: 16:00
Oral Presentation
Marine LUGEN, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium
Edwin ZACCAI, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium
For more than a century, a series of sociopolitical processes have led to thinking of agriculture in a vision of progress involving an increasingly high level of modernization of the activities. Recently, the development of internet-based technologies led to the emergence of a "digital revolution" of agriculture, also known as smart agriculture. A parallel and more recent development is what the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has introduced as climate-smart agriculture (CSA), an approach that integrates concerns for mitigation and adaptation to climate change in this technology-driven agriculture.

Behind the seductive ‘smart’ term, what do those notions cover and how do they frame current agricultural policies in global arenas, as well as practices in local ones?

Our contribution aims to answer those questions by investigating the contents of smart agriculture and CSA as framed by major actors, such as the FAO, international research groups and relevant NGOs. The existence of controversies between actors with divergent interests, using buzz concepts for their own agenda, are particularly explored. Logics inherent to the ‘smart’ model, in the valorization of productivity and progress, responding to a perceived food security threat, are studied in the light of the expansion of neoliberal policies since 1990. Furthermore, concrete study cases are presented to identify the repercussions of ‘smart’ practices on food production and farmers’ conditions. In the absence of any agreed definition of what (climate)-smart agriculture means and covers, the diversity of cases labeled as such lead to divergent results in terms of productivity and impacts, be it environmental, social or sanitarian. The technological development of agriculture increases the divide between farmers who have the means to follow and the others. It may even be that adaptation to climate change reinforces a process of (capitalistic) concentration of farms capable of using such tools.