Building climate resilience in the African agriculture sector

Research is now pointing to Climate Smart Agriculture as the solution to enhancing the capacities of agricultural and food systems to cope with current climate variability in order to improve productivity and resilience. Photo: K. Trautmann (CCAFS)

A regional workshop held in Arusha Tanzania in February 2014 charted the way forward with regard to Africa's agriculture under a changing climate. Delegates discussed Africa's participation in the upcoming UN Secretary General's Climate Summit to be held in September 2014.

Delegates from 21 countries from Northern, Eastern and Southern Africa recently took part in a regional workshop on African Agriculture in a Changing Climate: Enhancing the up-take of Climate Smart Agriculture held in Arusha, Tanzania.

The aim was to provide an opportunity for consolidating and sharing of experiences that could inform emerging Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) global efforts and the on-going United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations.

Coorganised by the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), African Climate Policy Centre (ACPC), East African Community (EAC) and the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), the meeting took place from 12 to 14 February 2014 in Arusha, Tanzania.

Emerging global efforts on climate-smart agriculture

Although a well performing agricultural sector is fundamental for Africa's overall economic growth, as well as for addressing hunger, poverty and inequality, the changing climate poses a challenge.

Research is now pointing towards CSA as the solution to enhancing the capacities of agricultural and food systems to cope with current climate variability in order to improve productivity and resilience. CSA seeks to integrate climate change into the planning and implementation of sustainable agricultural strategies in Africa.

To take forward work in CSA, a series of conferences on Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change have been held to mobilize action on policies, practices and financing for food security, adaptation and mitigation.  

In December 2013, the 3rd Global Conference on Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Security and Climate Change  was held in Johannesburg - South Africa and included high level discussions on a Climate-Smart Agriculture Alliance. This will be launched in September 2014 at the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Summit in New York, USA.

CSA is a relatively new concept. The integration of climate change into the work of agriculture ministries in Africa is very slow. Subsequently, policies and action plans do not sufficiently incorporate climate change. This inhibits the kind of action taking place on the ground as well as participation in climate change institutional mechanisms within countries. These countries therefore cannot access climate financing for CSA” said Wendy Mann, Policy Adviser at FAO who attended the workshop.

Watch our interview with Wendy Mann on climate-smart agriculture 

In Arusha, delegates acknowledged that with the approaching global CSA launch, Africa needs to prepare to argue for CSA practices not only as an adaptation, mitigation and risk management strategy, but also to discuss how various governments can tap into various climate funds. The agriculture sector in most African countries suffers from low budgetary allocations. 

 “If African governments are allocating less than 10% of their national budget to agriculture, we need to understand the logic in the low budgetary allocation as these are agriculture driven economies.  What Africa needs is bold, integrative and sound financial investments to be able to meets its food security, increased productivity and build resilience in a changing climate” said James Kinyangi, Program Leader CCAFS East Africa.

By catalyzing action on climate change prior to the UNFCCC Climate Change Conference in 2015, the UN Secretary-General intends to build a solid foundation on which to anchor successful negotiations and sustained progress on the road to reducing emissions and strengthening adaptation strategies.

Agriculture in the UNFCCC process

The Arusha meeting also aimed to consider COP19 outcomes and explore ways of consolidating the African common position on agriculture in the on-going UNFCCC, Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) and Ad hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP) negotiations and at the Green Climate Fund (GCF) Board.

 “Africa has not been politically smart in the UNFCCC negotiations and has so far not succeeded in reaching an agreement on Agriculture” noted Richard Muyungi, a former SBSTA chair.

Currently, the African Group of Negotiators (AGN) efforts are hampered by lack of sufficient scientific data and specific case studies on best practices on African Agriculture. This is according to Chebet Maikut, a climate change advisor in Uganda and member of the AGN. CCAFS is therefore leading initiatives aimed at developing technical papers on Agriculture and Climate Change in Africa: Vulnerabilities, Impact and Adaptation.

These papers will greatly inform the African Group of Negotiators. Some of the issues in these papers include: Impact and adaptation strategies for a climate resilient agriculture, opportunities for mitigation in agriculture and synergies with adaptation and enabling framework to accelerate climate change adaptation. A separate chapter deals with potential successful adaptation case studies for a climate resilient agriculture.

Chebet Maikut speaks about the African Group of Negotiators and their work

Key workshop recommendations (Access the document here)

The three day workshop came to an end with recommendations being made in three key areas. First is the political and enabling environment. Africa must ensure there is a 2015 agreement on Agriculture in the UNFCCC process.  

Regional bodies such as AMCEN, AUC and AGN can help by strengthening their coordination, mobilization and harmonization role among the high level decision making institutions for a common position on Agriculture and Climate Change. Knowledge management is the second key area. It was agreed that a gender sensitive programme to enhance CSA knowledge management and sharing among different actors be developed.

Additionally, regional and national CSA centers of excellence need to be established. The third area was on up scaling CSA. This entails the development of capacity, evidence, policy alignment, incentives and robust investment proposals to support investment and implementation in a CAADP Climate Investment Framework. Also national and regional incentives and platforms for up-scaling private sector engagement and investment need to be developed.

Another important outcome of the workshop was the establishment of an “Interim Ad hoc Working Group” on CSA chaired by the United Republic of Tanzania to drive Africa’s engagement in up scaling CSA. Additionally, it will lead Africa’s contribution in the upcoming global CSA alliance.

The meeting today shows that climate change is real. We must fast track decisions in Africa on what are the options and to settle for some of them and get all stakeholders on board" noted Odd Erik Arnesen, Senior Policy Adviser with the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD).

Read  various reports that appeared in the media

Africa needs multi-sectoral approaches to address impacts of climate change: official - Coast Week

Arusha hosts regional workshop on African Agriculture/climate change - IPP Media

Key workshop recommendations

View photos from the workshop

The regional workshop on African Agriculture in a changing climate brought together 70 delegates from 21 African countries, amongst them Kenya, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Burundi and Tanzania.

Mary Nyasimi is a gender and policy specialist while Vivian Atakos is a communications specialist. They both work for CCAFS.

Dennis Opondo is a Lecturer in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Maseno University - Kenya.