Worldwide emphasis has been placed on designing approaches with regard to the needs of sustainable development. Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA) is one key agricultural development approach aimed at sustainably increasing productivity and resilience, while also reducing/removing emissions of greenhouse gases. Although many countries will be expected to adopt this approach, its applicability in an African context is not very clear, well studied nor has its sustainability been assessed. We used the Sustainability Assessment of Energy Technologies Framework to assess the applicability of CSA in combating climate change, desertification and improving rural livelihood in an African context. We also assessed the opportunities and constraints to the adoption of this approach in Northern Nigeria. Data was collected using key informant interviews and field observation to assess the current status of agriculture in Northern Nigeria. The results showed that CSA is strong in aspects such as participation and sustainable use of resources but weak in aspects of compensation and equal distribution of benefits and costs. Many small-holder farmers have inadvertently practiced CSA as part of the traditional farming system. While the existence of CSA in current practice is a major element in its favour, the lack of a coherent climate mitigation approach and poor institutional structures are both detrimental. Sustainable agriculture will require a wider societal change towards appreciating the balance between agriculture and environmental change. We suggest four main areas in need of urgent change: political commitment, human and financial investment, incentives and information.   Key words: Climate-smart agriculture, sustainability assessment of energy technologies, desertification, rural livelihoods, northern Nigeria.

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