What's the state of climate adaptation and mitigation efforts in African agriculture?

Greenhouse gas emissions from livestock production systems are the largest source of agricultural emissions in East Africa. The livestock sector thus represents the best opportunity for mitigation in the region. Photo: R. Gangale (ILRI)
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Jun 9, 2017


Lili Szilagyi, Catherine Mungai and Dorine Odongo (CCAFS)


Experts share insights on science to deliver adaptation and mitigation in East African agriculture

“In East Africa, we are acutely aware of the consequences of climate change, with many parts of the region suffering from severe drought,” said Iain Wright, Deputy Director General from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in his introductory remarks at the CCAFS seminar on Science to Deliver Adaptation and Mitigation in East African Agriculture. The research community faces the challenge of helping farmers and pastoralists cope with the increasing challenges of climate change, reduce vulnerability and increase resilience, and adopt a combination of new technologies, organizational arrangements and policy support, among others. Researchers also need to be aware of the impact of agriculture on climate change, through greenhouse gas emissions, and find ways to reduce emissions from agriculture.

The seminar, which was hosted at ILRI on May 30, 2017, created an opportunity for about 65 of stakeholders drawn from government Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock and Fisheries (MoALF), Climate Change Department of  the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MENR), Ministry of Northern Kenya and Arid Lands, Non-Governmental Organizations such World Neighbours, SNV, Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA), Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN), African Academy of Sciences (AAS), East African Farmers Federation (EAFF) and scientists from CGIAR centers to share knowledge, learn from each other and build synergies on climate change adaptation and mitigation in East Africa.

The seminar covered three broad themes—Policy and engagement, Mitigation, and Science and parnerships for impact. Scientists from ILRI, the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and CCAFS gave insightful presentations on adaptation and mitigation initiatives in East Africa.

Watch the seminar recording:


Policy and engagement

Andrew Mude of ILRI, shared about the Index-Based Livestock Insurance (IBLI) project that is helping pastoralists manage risks of drought-related livestock losses, emphasizing that the impact of risk to the communities in drylands is immense. He highlighted that rigorous impact assessments have revealed considerable socio-economic and behavioural benefits of IBLI, drawing from policy and partner support. A key outcome of from IBLI, has been getting the Government of Kenya to take up the concept as part of the Kenya Livestock Insurance Program (KLIP). IBLI scientists and the World Bank in Kenya have been invited by the Government of Kenya as technical and policy advisors to the KLIP program. He concluded that going to scale will require careful research and development efforts to further unlock the barriers, and an alignment of policy and technological forces.

Katie Tavenner of ILRI highlighted the need to get the gender indicators right in order to define how to measure the impact of development interventions for men and women. There is need to consider how gender power dynamics influence the participation of men and women in mitigation activities earmarked as climate-smart. In the Kenyan dairy sector, for example, four issues emerged as critical—milk marketing, labor dynamics, intersectionality and gender equity. Dairy is a male-dominated sector in Kenya, and gender dynamics influence farmers’ ability to effectively participate in and benefit from low emissions dairy development.


Polly Ericksen, Program Leader at ILRI, gave an overview of ILRI's work on mitigation in East Africa. She stressed the incredible economic potential of the livestock sector, particularly for countries in Sub-Saharan Africa where six out of the 11 most profitable agricultural commodities are derived directly or indirectly from livestock. ILRI’s research on mitigation complements the work of other institutions such as the Climate Change Department of  Kenya’s Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources in several ways: For example, ongoing work at ILRI’s Mazingira Centre—an Environmental Research and Educational Centre—seeks to generate data specific to the Kenyan production systems. Acknowledging credible data alone is not enough, there is need to engage farmersto demonstrate why it is important to adopt strategies and technologies produced, as well as demonstrate to donors why they need to invest in such initiatives.

Her presentation was followed by a speed-talk from David Pelster, of ILRI's Mazingira Centre. David’s presentation focused on improving estimates of greenhouse gas fluxes from livestock in Sub-Saharan Africa, specifically emission factors from ruminants, manure management, and storage. Their research focuses on getting an actual depiction of the practice in the field, to obtain accurate methane conversion factors. The findings show that the current models are likely using incorrect emission factors for Africa, as they use emission factors from other regions with different climate, soils, management and livestock breed due to limited dataset for Africa. The Mazingira Center was set up to fill this void.

Charles Odhong from UNIQUE forestry and land use shared experiences and lessons from developing the Kenya dairy Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Action (NAMA) concept for GCF funding, highlighting the development process, including establishing partnerships, stakeholder consultations and training, and in-depth studies. The dairy NAMA is expected to transform Kenya's dairy sector to a low-emission development pathway, while improving the livelihoods of male and female dairy farmers. He concluded that there is limited research on adaptation implications of mitigation strategies, and on effectiveness of delivery mechanisms.

Science and partnerships for impact

Bruce Campbell, Director of CCAFS, emphasized the need for dramatic change in how we do research now; we have to become much more effective, outcome-oriented, focused, and different from what we are. We need to embrace the “three-thirds approach” (engagement, evidence, outreach) for the future of research.

Drawing on this approach, Evan Girvetz of the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) showed how engagement, evidence and outreach together lead to impact and outcomes. Partnerships and early engagement with key stakeholders are critical, and the process is as important as the final product. Decision-makers want evidence, and they see the CGIAR and CCAFS as key technical and knowledge partners to provide them with the evidence. Communication and capacity building are equally critical to translating high-level frameworks and guidelines into on-the-ground impact.

Edidah Ampaire of the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) shared successful examples of influencing change in policies in Tanzania and Uganda through multi-stakeholder platforms. Their project on Policy Action for Climate Change (PACCA) supported by CCAFS, adopted the learning alliances approach to foster exchange of new climate knowledge, ensure multi-actor climate action and connect public policy formulation and implementation structures at different governance levels to enhance policy implementation.

To bring it all together, the presentations and speed-talks were followed by a panel discussion moderated by Ravi Prabhu - Deputy Director General (Research), World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) and comprised of the following panelists:

  • Dawit Solomon - Regional Program Leader, CCAFS East Africa
  • Monica Parker - Scientist, International Potato Center (CIP)
  • Joanes Atela - Senior Research Fellow, African Centre for Technology Studies (ACTS)
  • Michael Okumu - Senior Assistant Director, Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, Kenya
  • Fiona Percy - Regional Coordinator, CARE International

Among many interesting points raised, Fiona Percy from CARE discussed the importance of innovative partnerships:

“We need to start shifting a bit the traditional thinking of roles (…) [and start] working together with the farmers collectively towards the common goal and start blurring the edges of our disciplines, so sticking to what we are good at but realizing that it is only when we put it all together that you can actually find ways for people to make decisions on the level that they want to.”

Dawit Solomon was asked about where he would put investment to transform agriculture and deliver climate benefits. He said that he would primarily invest in climate services and safety nets, and put most of the money in sub-seasonal and seasonal analysis. He stressed that providing African farmers with weather information is crucial, and added: “We need tools in Africa because climate-smart farming is a reality now everywhere, so I would put resource in that part.” Livestock and crop systems for low emission agriculture, credible evidence to inform policy, and in strong partnerships are among the areas he explained would make investments in.

Joanes Atela shared his views on finance; as he put it: “If we do things right, finance will follow”. He explained that we need to ask ourselves hard questions, such as what we want the finances for and how we use them in a manner that is going to achieve the sort of impacts we need. He added that the donor environment is changing, and donors want impact stories. For Africa and research organizations like CCAFS it means that in order to access finances, we need to show cases of impact stories and outcomes. And for that, he said, CCAFS and others need to reorient their research focus.

Stories of Success: Climate-Smart Villages in East Africa

After wrapping up the discussions, Vivian Atakos from CIP (formerly Communications specialist at CCAFS East Africa) presented the new CCAFS East Africa booklet that outlines some of the emerging stories of success of climate-smart agriculture technologies and practices that are positively changing the lives of smallholder farmers across East Africa, and highlights "livestock-smart" activities in the Climate-Smart Villages. Download the booklet: Stories of Success: Climate-Smart Villages in East Africa

See the presentations on Slideshare: