Agricultural researchers have developed a number of agricultural technologies and practices, known collectively as climate-smart agriculture (CSA), as part of climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts. Development practitioners invest in scaling these to have a wider impact. We use the example of the Western Highlands in Guatemala to illustrate how a focus on the number of farmers adopting CSA can foster a tendency to homogenize farmers, instead of recognizing differentiation within farming populations. Poverty is endemic in the Western Highlands, and inequitable land distribution means that farmers have, on average, access to 0.06 ha per person. For many farmers, agriculture per se does not represent a pathway out of poverty, and they are increasingly reliant on non-agricultural income sources. Ineffective targeting of CSA, hence, ignores small-scale farming households’ different capacities for livelihood transformation, which are linked to the opportunities and constraints afforded by different livelihood pathways, agricultural and non-agricultural. Climate-smart interventions will often require a broader and more radical agenda that includes supporting farm households’ ability to build non-agricultural-based livelihoods. Climate risk management options that include livelihood transformation of both agricultural and non-agricultural livelihoods will require concerted cross-disciplinary research and development that encompasses a broader set of disciplines than has tended to be the case to date within the context of CSA.
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