Africa builds alliances to tackle climate change in agriculture

A boy at work in a maize field, Ethiopia. Photo credit: C. Robinson/CIMMYT.
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Sep 22, 2014

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Mary Nyasimi, James Kinyangi and George Wamukoya (CCAFS, COMESA)

The 2014 Climate Summit offers Africa the opportunity to endorse Climate-Smart Agriculture as one of the transformational actions needed to increase food security and nutrition and safeguard the environment.

I challenge you to bring to the Summit bold pledges. Innovate, scale-up, cooperate and deliver concrete action that will close the emissions gap and put us on track for an ambitious legal agreement through the UNFCCC process.” – UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

As the world gears up up for the United Nations Climate Summit to be held in New York on 23 September 2014, Africa is equally preparing to endorse Climate-Smart Agriculture as one of the transformational actions that are needed to increase food security and nutrition and safeguard the environment.

According to the UN, the 2014 Climate Summit "offers an outstanding opportunity for global leaders from governments, private sector, civil society and farmers to champion an ambitious vision, anchored in action that will drive a meaningful global agreement in 2015."

Africa’s climate is changing and its human population is growing and will continue to grow to about 1.9 billion people by 2050 and to 4 billion by 2100, according to the Population Reference Bureau. The current agricultural practices in the different agro-ecological and farming systems are unable to keep pace with the changing climate and the massive population growth. Therefore, the Climate Summit will provide African leaders with an opportunity to identify and endorse transformative and climate-smart actions that can provide the impetus for agricultural development.

No-till, animal-traction direct seeder for conservation agriculture in Zimbabwe

Thomas Lumpkin/CIMMYT.

African agriculture and enabling a policy environment

Africa has enormous potential if its resources (land, water and people) can be sustainably utilized and supported by an enabling policy environment.  An important resource that is often ignored is the plethora of traditional and indigenous knowledge and institutions that can be harnessed to build resilience. Eleven years ago, the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program of the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD)’s identified agriculture as one of the central pillars of all member states, including agro-based industries committed to increasing agricultural productivity by committing 10% of their national budgets to agriculture. The key target areas were empowering women, increasing investment in agriculture, agri-business and agrifood value chains, fostering entrepreneurship, improving national and regional agricultural markets and improving the management of natural resources. A few countries have managed to meet their pledges: Ghana, Togo, Zambia, Burundi, Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Congo, Senegal, Ethiopia and Malawi. These countries have observed increased productivity and reductions in the number of hungry and poor people.

Two New Alliances to transform Africa’s agriculture

Africa Climate-Smart Agriculture Alliance (ACSAA),

The Africa Climate-Smart Agriculture Alliance (ACSAA) is a unique and innovative partnership led by the NEPAD Agency and five international NGOs (Catholic Relief Services; Concern Worldwide; CARE; World Vision; Oxfam) with technical support from a number of organizations including the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), FARA, FAO and FANRPAN. The Alliance seeks to transform the lives of 25 million AFrican farmers by 2025.

As a research body, CCAFS role will be to provide Africa with a perspective of CSA including determining climate specific risks and vulnerability; help determine and validate the Africa-specific CSA tool box including modalities and parameters to monitor/measure adoption and sustained practice; provide technical validation of the 25 million farm household target; conduct research to bring evidence-based understanding of both technical and political-economy issues to unblock accelerated adoption and sustained widespread practicing of CSA and lastly undertake and support analytical pieces on future scenarios to inform today’s policy decisions and programme interventions (or lack of it). All ACSAA will work in partnership to design and implements programmes that can stimulate adoption of promising CSA practices and drive agricultural policy reform.

Climate-Smart Agriculture partnership for Africa (CSAP Africa)

The Climate-Smart Agriculture Partnership for Africa (CSAP AFRICA) is a voluntary arrangement that brings together regional economic communities (RECs), governments, private sector, international, regional and national inter-governmental and non- governmental organizations, civil society organizations, farmer organizations, regional and national agricultural and climate research systems and farmers committed to transforming Africa’s agriculture in a changing climate through adoption of Climate-Smart Agriculture. CSAP Africa aims to catalyze CSA mainstreaming and share learning for fast tracking national readiness to implement CSA regional and country programs, enhance synergy between the ministries of environment and agriculture, and strengthen the capacity of governments to partner strategically with the private sector in the implementation of CSA country programs. CSAP Africa works with all the actors along the agricultural value chain and food systems, (including focus on post-harvest losses, gender and youth), as well as bilateral and multilateral agencies to support consolidation of fragmented CSA approaches. The aim is to transform these into well-coordinated evidence-based multi-year CSA regional and country 
programs in the context of the CAADP regional and national agricultural and food security investment plans. Such programs would generate a greater multiplier effect on the national economy and build resilience and improve the livelihoods of the smallholder farmers while contributing to environmental sustainability.

Multipurpose trees in Lower Nyando Photos: K. Trautmann

CSAP Africa also aims to support African countries to plan responses and integrate climate change resilience into their agricultural development plans to help enhance readiness to address the climate related shocks. At the moment, most African countries are formulating their climate change policies, strategies and action plans as well as the green growth and low carbon strategies that aim to integrate climate change into national 
development. In the agriculture sector, many countries are beginning to embrace the CSA approach as a way of providing gains in agricultural productivity, building the resilience of smallholder farmers to shocks as well as addressing them through improved practices the reductions in the emissions intensity from agriculture and food systems. CSAP Africa aims to consolidate these efforts into regional and country CSA programs. CSAP Africa has a target of CSA outreach of 10 million smallholder farmers and small-scale food producers by 2025.

In conclusion, the impacts of climate change on Africa’s agricultural production system, existing inequality and population will escalate poverty levels. Government led initiatives that will ensure commitments to CSA investments are necessary, and adhered to. With most African governments voluntarily endorsing CSAP Africa as the engine to drive adoption of CSA, we look forward to the same governments, through CSAP actively and decisively arguing for CSA as a transformative action during the upcoming Climate Summit, in New York.


Get a full rundown of Climate-Smart Agriculture events at Climate Week NYC and follow updates on our blog and via twitter @cgiarclimate. Learn more about Climate-Smart Agriculture and Climate-Smart Villages.