How sustainable farming is changing the world

Maria Sankoh farming in Sierra Leone
Maria Sankoh, a mother of four, in Sierra Leone. Photo: Kieran McConville / Concern Worldwide.
News7 August 2014Caoimhe Gaskin

Concern Worldwide’s work with smallholder farmers in Africa is now part of a groundbreaking African alliance that will benefit six million farmers.

Our CEO, Dominic MacSorley, examines the progress made in climate smart agriculture in the first of this two-part blog post.

Climate change

In the future we will all be eating maize in Ireland - unlikely? Think again!

Scientists estimate that even a two degree centigrade increase in the world’s temperature will fundamentally change our food production systems worldwide. 

Climate change is a controversial and frequently debated topic, but two things are clear: the world’s population is growing and is expected to reach nine billion by the year 2050, and an increase in urbanisation across Africa is leading to a decline in rural farming. 

Without a significant investment in new solutions, there simply won’t be enough food and the potential consequences should alarm us. 

Sustainable solutions

There’s a tendency to look for solutions through new science; identifying ways to produce more food on less land and increasing production through large-scale commercial farmers. However, there are other smarter and more sustainable solutions available. 

The solution lies with the current network of 500 million small farmers that produce 80% of the food consumed in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Now, through the work of organisations such as Concern, these half million strong food producers are driving a transformation in world agriculture.


We work in 15 of the countries that have been listed as vulnerable to climate change by the Centre for Global Development.

As a result, we are developing new approaches to climate smart agriculture with initiatives in crop production, water, agro-forestry, livestock production and sustainability.  


Balume Lubira benefited from Concern's livelihoods programme, Masisi, DRC.
Balume Lubira benefited from Concern's livelihoods programme, Masisi, DRC. Photo: Concern Worldwide.

These are the key principles we believe are critical to achieving the goal of increased, sustainable productivity:

  • Farming at any scale is a business and smallholders and producers must be treated as entrepreneurs
  • Businesses need clear links along the value chain, from production to processing, marketing and, ultimately, to consumption
  • To increase crop production, farmers in the most marginalised areas need to adapt to changes brought about by climate change
  • Increasing crop production is not the whole story; there must be clear links to improving nutrition, especially if we are to reduce malnutrition and stunting
  • Making women the focus of training delivers better results; they learn and adopt new ideas and techniques faster 

Part two of this blog further examines climate smart agriculture and its benefits.

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