Saturday, June 15, 2024

Creating  Climate-Smart African Agriculture


Alazar Kebede

The Paris Agreement paves the way for mitigation and adaptation measures in developing countries. Although the Agreement refers to the “need to safeguard food security”, it does not mention agriculture as a separate sector. The link between agriculture and climate is however obvious. Climate change is already having a negative impact on food security, especially through agriculture, affecting crops, livestock production and fisheries.

Agriculture in turn contributes significantly to climate change. Recent UN data indicate that African agriculture is responsible for 15% of total global emissions from agriculture. Knowing that agriculture is the backbone of African economies, the problem of climate change impacting food security is huge.

There is a myriad of approaches to achieve sustainable agriculture ranging from agroecology, sustainable intensification to ecosystem-based adaptation. Often they overlap or they are complementary. At times, they compete. In 2010, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) launched a new concept, baptised as climate-smart agriculture (CSA).

Climate-smart agriculture is based on three pillars: sustainably increasing agricultural productivity, adapting and building resilience to climate change, and reducing or removing greenhouse gases. Agronomists indicate that there exists a wide variety of techniques to achieve these goals, for instance, the landscape approach or conservation agriculture.

African agriculture is and will continue to be the mainstay of economic growth and transformation on the continent as it employs about 65% of Africa’s labour force and accounts for more than one-third of the continent’s GDP according to African Union and World Bank statistics. In the aftermath of the adoption of the Paris Agreement, the next logical step or Africa is to translate that momentum quickly into the agriculture sector. This should be central to a holistic and comprehensive transformation of African economies.

Africa’s vulnerability to climate change is largely linked to its high dependence on the agricultural sector, which is heavily reliant on rain-fed systems making it particularly vulnerable to changes in precipitation patterns. Climate change is expected to impact crop production in Africa through changes in temperature and the quantity and temporal distribution of water supply. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts that rising temperatures and unpredictable rains will make it harder for farmers to grow certain key crops like wheat, rice and maize.

While many of the projected effects of climate change on agriculture are negative, it is possible that productivity could increase in some areas due to more favourable climatic conditions. Africa must aim to increase productivity and sustainable production systems to achieve food self- sufficiency. For Africa to be able to address the issues pertaining to agriculture and climate change, it is imperative to promote initiatives geared at improving adaptation, increasing food productivity and reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the sector.

Africa needs to optimise the agricultural sector through applying ecosystem-based adaptation approaches that enhance ecosystems to improve food security, incomes and job creation without further escalating greenhouse gases. For rain-fed farming systems facing increasing propensity of drought, as in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa, one of the most important priorities is expanded access to irrigation, especially small-scale irrigation. Insurance instruments are important for pooling risk and responding quickly to shocks when they arise.

African governments, at continental, regional and national levels, are attempting to mainstream climate change into their agricultural policies, generally referring to it as climate-smart agriculture. The African Union (AU) sees things big. It wants 25 million farming households to be using climate-smart agriculture practices by the year 2025, calling it the climate-smart agriculture Vision 25×25.

Implementing climate-smart agriculture is a process with varying degrees of success. Climate-smart agriculture policies at regional and continental levels also struggle with slow progress. In essence, this is due to a lack of state-of-the-art knowledge and data, capacity challenges, and the difficulty of mobilising resources to fund climate-smart agriculture practices. In addition, there is a disconnection between policies and frameworks at the continental, regional, national and local levels.

The solution lies in finding a multi-stakeholder, bottom-up, inter-sectorial approach that can overcome these challenges. A mouth full. Potential lies with the private sector as well. Investing in climate-sensitive agriculture is an opportunity for them to make sustainable profits. In this regards, governments and financial partners should create an enabling environment and provide financial incentives to mitigate risks, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). After all, SMEs are in a good position to address opportunities in local markets and they can better adapt climate-smart technologies to local markets.

Financing adaptation within the agriculture sector in Africa represents perhaps the single most important element for Africa to meet the challenges of climate change. Significantly, Africa has not been able to fully access all major funding opportunities related to climate change primarily as a result of capacity restraints. The Green Climate Fund (GCF) which is expected to be filled to the tune of US$100 billion per annum presents a great opportunity for Africa to access climate funds; the fund has identified climate-resilient agriculture as one of its five investment priorities. There is lots of potential, but if Africa wants to fully benefit from the Green Climate Fund, it needs to develop institutional and human capacity in terms of project preparation and implementation.

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