anon-user down-chevron-sm facebook-mdi instagram-mdi twitter-mdi

Climate resilience: How to help smallholder farmers respond to climate change

Mary received a loan, plus advice and insurance, through Apollo Agriculture, with the support of Kiva lenders

There’s no more time for debate: Climate change is here, and humanity must respond.

In order to help ourselves and others bear the brunt of change already happening and the challenges to come, we must increase our resilience to climate shocks.  

Flooding, wildfires, drought, violent storms, and extreme heat are evidence of the climate crisis affecting every region of the planet and its people. We know that reducing greenhouse gas emissions can help slow its effects and prevent the most catastrophic scenarios. 

But millions of people have already been displaced by climate change, many of them among the world’s most vulnerable populations. Action must be taken now to help them recover and prepare for more challenges to come.

What is climate resilience?

When it comes to confronting climate change and the difficult circumstances it presents, there are three types of responses that Kiva aims to support:

  • Mitigation includes actions that slow climate change. This primarily involves reducing greenhouse gas emissions to prevent the planet from warming further. 
  • Adaptation means figuring out how to live with the effects of climate change. This is a long-term vision that means changing the way we grow food, build our homes, and modify our lives to better survive in a new environment.
  • Resilience is the ability to successfully cope with serious climate events like droughts and hurricanes. It includes preparation and anticipation of shocks in the short term and long term, and the capacity to recover quickly and efficiently. 

In this article, we look at climate resilience and how it relates to communities already being impacted by climate change. While everyone will be affected by the shift, climate change causes a disproportionate amount of harm to those already at risk of political instability, food insecurity, lack of services, and other harsh conditions exacerbated by environmental disasters. 

From Haiti to Afghanistan to Indonesia, people with the least amount of resources are bearing the brunt of the climate’s increasing instability. Any discussion about climate resilience must include discussion of how to help these underserved regions prepare for the future.

Read more: 5 Ways to Actively Help the Earth

What climate resilience looks like

As leaders and communities figure out how to adapt to climate change — by, for example, adjusting economic, ecological, and social systems to withstand climate-related risks for the foreseeable future — immediate action must also be taken to face the disasters already at the doorstep.

Facilitating climate resilience combines elements of mitigation and adaptation to create solutions that help people plan for the risks they are facing now. The UN Committee for Global Climate Action includes the following steps and interventions for governments, businesses, and communities to develop climate resilience:

  • Assess and monitor climate risk and vulnerability
  • Establish early warning systems and early action 
  • Prepare contingency plans and emergency response 
  • Employ nature-based solutions to reduce risks 
  • Climate-proof infrastructure and services 
  • Transfer risks through insurance and other social protection  
  • Increase the volume, quality and access of public and private finance

Put into practice, these steps towards climate resilience can look like massive projects funded by governments, collective action by neighboring communities, or even helping to improve access to finance for individuals through microloans

For example, in north Java, Indonesia, villagers and officials have collaborated on nature-based solutions that help protect the coast from tidal surges while increasing economic benefits with aquaculture. Over 70,000 people have increased their resilience to climate change through the project, with the additional mitigation benefit of storing more carbon by planting mangrove trees and expanding biodiversity in the surrounding ecosystem.

Sometimes climate resilience can look like starting from scratch: The Philippines has been one of the first countries to be affected by climate change, especially by the typhoons that pummel coastal communities as well as constant risks of earthquakes and flooding. In response to increasing hazards, in 2018 the government announced it was building a brand new, climate resilient city north of the current capital of Manila, made from sustainable materials and able to accommodate up to 1.2 million people.   

Of course, most of the millions of people already impacted by climate change don’t have the option of starting over. They must build resilience through innovation, like the university student in Rwanda who identified a new way to bring fresh water to communities in an effort to eliminate water scarcity in Africa. In Uganda, bio-latrine technology is improving sanitation and infrastructure through better waste management and energy conservation. Climate resilient solutions are also underway in South America, with food production and sustainable agriculture initiatives.

Read more: It’s easy to take your share of climate action with Kiva

How to help farmers build climate resilience

Illiana's Kiva loan helped her purchase passion fruit seeds and improve her yields.

Protecting food sources and agricultural livelihoods is foremost in the effort to build climate resilience around the world. Climate change will reduce agriculture yields by up to 30% by 2050 and increase food prices by 20% for billions of people, according to the UN’s committee on global climate change. 

One way to strengthen economic resilience to climate change is to make sure that small farmers have the support they need to handle floods, hurricanes, droughts, and other climate events. Microfinance has been shown to improve the livelihood of farmers, and it can provide much-needed capital to help implement solutions to make them more resilient to the effects of climate change. Some examples include: 

  • Microloans and other financial services. Small loans help farmers adapt to unstable growing conditions by providing accessibility to things like drought-tolerant maize that increases crop yields in the face of unpredictable rainfall. Loans also offer ways for farmers to create new opportunities to diversify their livelihoods so they don’t have to depend on a single source of income.
  • Crop insurance. Some microfinance institutions (MFIs), like Apollo Agriculture based in Nairobi, Kenya, offer affordable insurance for loan clients so they can receive compensation if their fields flood or crops fail due to climate-related events. 
  • Climate risk analysis. Other MFIs offer tools for farmers to assess how much the environment has changed and how climate change will affect livelihoods. This can help people decide when and which crops to plant or pivot towards a more sustainable direction. 

Example of how microfinance institutions can help build climate resilience

In Bolivia, climate change is increasingly affecting the agriculture sector, which is the cornerstone of the economy. Higher temperatures and stronger precipitation events have become more common and have led to glacial melt, droughts, floods, forest fires, landslides, and many other events. This has damaged Bolivia's economy and created problems especially for the poor in both rural and urban areas.

Kiva Lending Partner Sembrar Sartawi works to support vulnerable smallholder farmers in Bolivia and contribute to climate-resilient economic growth. Most of its clients rely exclusively on the MFI to cover their funding needs, since they’re not serviced by the traditional banking sector. 

Sembrar Sartawi provides microfinance loans to help farmers:

  • purchase environmentally-certified seeds,
  • invest in energy-efficient equipment, 
  • or take out climate risk insurance.

Alongside loans, Sembrar Sartawi offers technical assistance to its clients at no extra charge. One example is providing support from professionals like veterinarians and agricultural engineers. The approach helps farmers increase their productivity, avoid high indebtedness and improve their incomes — in fact, one study showed that dairy farmer clients of Sembrar Sartawi have increased their profits by 50 percent.

You can invest in climate resilience too

More than a quarter of the world’s population — over two billion people — make their living growing crops, tending to livestock, or working in some form of agriculture. Supporting their resilience to climate change through microfinance not only helps stabilize their livelihoods, it protects the world’s food supply — just another way that the changing climate will eventually affect everyone on the planet. 

You can help others build climate resilience by lending as little as $25 to a farmer or entrepreneur implementing sustainable solutions for the planet. 

Make an eco-friendly loan today

About the author

Jessica Leigh Lebos

Jessica Leigh Lebos is Kiva's Senior Storyteller and an award-winning writer based in Savannah, Georgia, USA. Covering social justice, cultural equity, sustainable growth, financial literacy, and always celebrating others' success, she is thrilled to help share Kiva's mission—and the stories of the people it connects.