Bruce Campbell, Director of CCAFS
Gerald Nelson, IFPRI, CCAFS theme leader
Sir John Beddington, Chief UK Science Advisor
Voices from Agriculture and Forest Day participants
The new CGIAR research program - Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security launched on 4 December amid a flurry of activities related to agriculture at the Cancun climate conference. The keystone event, Agriculture and Rural Development Day 2010, was jointly organised by a wide range of CCAFS partners and allies (see the full list at the bottom of the event's page), demonstrating that partnerships are crucial for overcoming the challenges that climate change poses to agriculture and food security.
The day-long event, which drew hundreds of participants including policy makers, farmers, scientists and journalists, aimed to put agriculture on this year's climate change agenda. The ARDD website has extensive related resources including session summaries, photos, videos and press materials. The event's organisers produced A Call for Action on Agriculture and Climate Change, summarising the day's key messages, and emphasising the mutual dependence of climate security and food security. This statement was shared along with key messages for forestry and climate change, at a joint Agriculture Day and Forest Day side event on 6 December. The unified message was clear: land use matters for climate change, rural development and food security. Read more about this event at the CGIAR in Action blog.
As COP16 ended, the collective push for including agriculture in a climate change deal has achieved small but important successes.
Agriculture and food security are recognised as areas deserving priority consideration in projects and programmes for enhancing action on adaptation, in a footnote to the Outcome of the work of the Ad Hoc Working Group on long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention (PDF). Unfortunately there was no decision on a work programme on agriculture on the Subsidiary Body for Technological Advice (SBSTA), proving correct fears that it would be held hostage by the uncertain state of broader negotiations and by a number of small technicalities at the 11th hour.
The Cancun Agreements did, however, call for a SBSTA work programme on REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) that addresses drivers and methodologies, as well as exploration of REDD+ financing options under the Ad-hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action. As agriculture expansion is a key driver of deforestation in developing countries, this decision ensures some support for continued work on agriculture in the climate change context.
The Cancun climate talks may have ended but the work has just begun. From January 2011, CCAFS embarks on a 10-year work program hosted by the CIAT - the International Center for Tropical Agriculture. Please watch this blog and follow us on twitter (@cgiarclimate) for updates as they unfold, stories from ongoing research, and farm-level perspectives.
His name is written “Naakpi” and pronounced “Naakwi”, that we understood fast. But it took us much longer to comprehend why Naakpi looked so tired, and walked around with a back bent as if he had a burden too heavy for one man to carry.
We understood even less as we walked through an opening in the earth wall surrounding his farm and stepped onto his vegetable field: This one hectare plot was the largest, greenest and best maintained vegetable field we had seen so far. The cabbage, beans, tomato, peppers all stood in straight lines. A perfectly geometric maze of five inch wide irrigation canals divided the field into small sub-plots devour of any weeds.
All of us stood in awe. The sight of green that lush came as a surprise. So far, during our West-Africa trip, we had been interviewing farmers harvesting at this time, one to two months into the dry season. Here, in Lawra – Northeast Ghana, it had been no different. But Naakpi still had a green plot. Why then did it not make him a happy man?
“This is by far the nicest plot I have seen so far, Naakpi”, I said, and congratulated him. He looked at me with sad eyes and shrugged: “Give it one more month, and I will lose it all”, he said. He told us the story.
After his first two sentences, I knew Joel Yiri from Jirapa was the man I was looking for. I had asked Peter Kuupenne, an extension officer from Ghana’s Ministry of Food and Agriculture, to meet “a creative farmer”. And that is what I found: Joel was a man with a vision.
As we shook hands, and sat down in front of Joel’s house, he introduced himself in perfect English. I asked him how come, and if maybe he had been a teacher. But he shook his head: “You know, over here, you are born as a farmer’s son, so that’s what you do for your life: you farm. Just as your father and your father’s father. But that also includes the core challenge: with the current climate change, we can’t farm anymore like they did. We need to adapt our methods. Our fathers had fertile grounds. The rains were plentiful, and for generations they used the same tools, the same seeds and the same technologies. Our generation needs to change.”
From that moment on, I just knew it was going to be an interesting testimonial as part of the series we were recording for the CCAFS program.
“Twenty years ago, famine reigned our area”, says Helene. “The men went off to Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Togo and all countries around us. They farmed other people’s lands. But we, the women, we could not move. We had to raise the children. And it was hard.”
“You know, for a farmer, the crop is everything. As the weather changed, as the erosion took our soil away, we were left with infertile land. Whatever small crops we could still harvest, was not enough for our kids. They got sick, many died. Those were very hard times.”
Adama, the chairman from the farmers’ union, had told us how the village succeeded in constructing a dam. “That was good as a drinking hole for the cattle”, Helene explains, “but I realized we could do more with it, and thought about growing vegetables during the dry season. We never did that, I had no experience, but I wanted to give it a try. If you don’t try, you won’t learn, in my opinion.”
“You have no idea”, says Ganame Ousseni, a cattle farmer in Ninigui in the North of Burkina Faso, “You can not imagine. When I was a small boy, the grass was this high”, and he holds his arm above his head. “We used to hunt wild animals here. We had loads of cattle too.”
But now it is gone. The forest and the grazing grounds. The whole area is barren with a compacted crust as top soil. “What were we to do?”, Ousseni shakes his head, “We had to stay here to mind the crops, so we gave our cattle to nomads passing through. They herded them for us, taking the cows to the grazing grounds hundreds of miles away, all the way up to Mali. At the end of the dry season, when the cattle came back from the migration, we saw we lost more cattle each year. Some were stolen along the way, or were eaten by wild animals. Our herd disseminated. ”
Radio Nacional de Colombia: Interview with Bruce Campbell, Director of CCAFS
"Global warming will result in a global hunger by 2050, unless world leaders take substantive decisions at the Sixteenth Summit on Climate Change (COP16) to be held in Cancun", warned Bruce Campbell in an interview with the National Radio Colombia.
(only available in Spanish)
To illustrate the impact of a 2-degree temperature change, the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), in collaboration with CCAFS, documented the impact of a two-degree rise on coffee production in Colombian Andes, a crucial cash crop for small-scale Andean farmers who supply the multi-billion dollar gourmet coffee market.
The Ghana case study highlights the displacement of African farmers who will be forced to abandon semi-arid, dry areas that can no longer support food production.
While decision makers in Cancun negotiate the latest high-level climate deals, the stories and testimonies featured in Two Degrees Up give a glimpse of what life is like on the ground, and emphasize the importance of finding sustainable, scientific solutions to enable small farmers around the world to adapt to the challenge of climate change.
“My grandparents grew crops without any fertilizer, and had no problems. But with the 20 hectares I inherited, the yield was not enough to even feed my own family”, sighs Ganame Adama. “The forest was gone; the fertile soil was taken away by the waters gushing over the land during the rainy season. A hard crust was everything we were left with. We had to find ways to use that water.”
The people from Ninigui, in Burkina Faso’s north, looked for advise from other farmers who lived through similar challenges. They learned how to build small dams, called ‘diguettes’, ‘digues’ or ‘digues filtrantes’ to break the water flow and block the fertile ground from running off: Using a simple long tube, filled with water, they mark ‘contour lines’ with sticks: areas on their flat plots which are at an equal height. Then they stack rocks, only half a foot high, following those contour lines. Read more »
A village in Northern Burkina Faso fights the odds, and turns the tide
In the north of Burkina Faso, about one hour’s drive from Ouahigouya, the trees change into low scrubby bushes, the grass turns yellow, and as we drive on, it eventually disappears. The dirt track dissolves into a rocky river bedding, climbs up a steep ridge and levels on a plateau. We stop for second, and take in the scenery.
The landscape is barren. The soil is a dark brown crusted gravel, often bereaved of any vegetation. Houses are grouped together, with the mosques and low mud grain stores sticking out. Here and there a group of kids walks to the school at the edge of the village. A large troop of cows, herded by two nomads, kicks up a cloud of dust.
Ninigui feels like a border town. A village on the edge of the desert and on the edge of survival.
Ganame Adama, who heads NAAM, the local farmers’ union, takes us to his field where he just harvested his millet crop. “Look around you”, he says, “All of this used to be forest. At the time of my father’s father, they hunted wild animals here. They grew a crop without using any fertilizer. They had crops every year without much effort.”
As the forest was cut for firewood, gradually the rains carried away the thin top soil. To make matters worse, the rainy season shifted: it started later, lasted shorter, and came in repeated violent squalls, often causing flooding as the barren ground was no longer able to absorb the rain. “Rains just gushed over the ground”, Adama explains, “In the hills, it dug out ravines, emptying into the flats. The water would just carry away whatever we had sown. It was no use to apply fertilizer neither. Each time it rained, everything was carried away.” Read more »
CCAFS Coordinating Unit - University of Copenhagen, Faculty of Science, Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, Rolighedsvej 21, DK-1958 Frederiksberg C, Denmark, phone +45 35331046; Email ccafs [at] cgiar [dot] org, EAN 5790000279012
Lead Center - International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT)