A potent brew of untapped opportunity and climate injustice is putting smallholder farmers of the world in a bind. These farmers, who typically farm on just one to five acres of land and number 50 million strong in Sub-Saharan Africa alone, face some of the most acute effects of climate change. Most of them rely on rainfed agriculture, leaving them open to shocks like droughts and storms that can wipe out their crops and leave them without enough food to see their families through the year. However, virtually none of the financing the global community has marshaled to fight climate change is directed toward them, and they feature in almost no high-level policy conversations about climate priorities. Smallholder farmers are left to tackle livelihood-threatening challenges on their own dime, though they had almost no hand in creating them.

There are three main reasons to put smallholder farmers front and center in the global climate agenda. First, supporting climate adaptation (practices that help people adjust to the effects of climate change) for smallholders is an incredibly efficient way to improve the lives of the global poor. This is especially relevant at a time when the planet is behind on several SDGs, including those related to poverty reduction and food security. Given that farmers represent up to 80 percent of people facing hunger and poverty, shoring up their resilience to shocks that cut into their incomes and food supply is one of the best investments for accomplishing our development goals as a planet.

Second, there is huge, untapped potential for climate mitigation (efforts to reduce or prevent greenhouse gas emissions), given the scope of land smallholders manage globally. Some estimates indicate that as much as 40 percent of the world’s farmland is stewarded by smallholders. These farming families can play a significant role in mitigating climate change if they’re equipped with tools to maximize the environmental gains their land can deliver.

Read the full article about climate philanthropy by Claire McGuinness and Matthew Forti at Stanford Social Innovation Review.