Experts Launch Action Plan to Help African Agriculture Adapt to Climate Change

Investing in adaptation in African agriculture can help deliver future food security, resilience, and economic development. Photo: G. Smith (CIAT)
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Release date

Monday, November 14, 2016
Pan-African meeting on sidelines of COP22 determines priority areas for investment

MARRAKECH, November 14 – Leading scientists and policymakers have come together at the COP22 climate talks in Marrakech to determine priorities for collective action that will help African agriculture to build resilience to climate change and feed the chronically food insecure continent.

“Six of the 10 countries most affected by climate change are in Africa yet Africa is responsible for only four per cent of greenhouse gas emissions,” said Bruce Campbell of the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), which co-hosted the event. “Moreover, African countries only receive five per cent of climate funding. This event was a crucial step towards a mutual goal: finding ways to adapt to climate change and finding the funds to make it happen.”

98% of African countries have pledged to include agriculture adaptation in their climate change strategies, yet progress at a global level on agriculture has stalled at COP22. Discussions on how to include agriculture as part of the climate negotiations has been delayed until May 2017, making action at a regional level all the more urgent.

Representatives from the government of Morocco joined researchers, entrepreneurs and farmers from across Africa to discuss the most promising adaptation solutions for the continent.

With COP22 deemed the “COP of Action” following the entry into force of the Paris Agreement, the event focussed on how to implement an ambitious new AAA initiative launched by the Moroccan government, that seeks to mobilise $30 billion for Africa to transform and adapt its agriculture to a changing climate

Mohamed Ait Kadi, president of the General Council of Agricultural Development, Morocco, said: "We have billed this COP as a COP for Africa, providing a unique opportunity to showcase action for Africa, in Africa. The Paris Agreement explicitly refers to safeguarding food security. In my view, the willingness to address agriculture and food security finally appears to be having some impact. We call this initiative ‘Triple A’ mainly to include the fact that investment in the Adaptation of African Agriculture is a triple A rated investment."

The AAA initiative sets out three key areas for investment:

  • Sustainable and resilient soil management
  • Improved agricultural water management
  • Climate risk management.

During a session dedicated to sustainable soil management, experts showcased the solutions and challenges facing the continent. Professor Tekalign Mamo, Program Director at the Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency, highlighted his country’s EthioSIS digital soil mapping project that has allowed for custom-blended fertilizers to be produced, and distributed at the local level. When used in conjunction with other improved agronomic practices, the project has already seen yield rises of up to 65%. Charlotte Hebebrand, Director General of the International Fertilizer Association (IFA) said: “Africa has the potential to get the best of both worlds by ‘leapfrogging’ into more integrated soil fertility management.” 

She added, “By optimising its fertilizer use, no less and no more, the continent can significantly increase average crop yields while keeping greenhouse gas emissions to a minimum."

By also improving agricultural water management, African countries can tackle the increasingly frequent droughts and water shortages that are hitting the continent. Two thirds of Africa have experienced a rainfall deficit, which has put harvests at risk.

“The AAA initiative touches our heart, because of the opportunity it gives for South-South co-operation – there is so much to learn,” said Eduardo Mansur, Director of the Land and Water Division at the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations. “Take wastewater, for example. 25% of water in Jordan is reclaimed water. This experience can serve countries that don’t have this capacity – we need to let this knowledge flow from one country to another.”

Finally, by adopting climate-sensitive practices, production in Africa could actually increase from US$280bn to US$880bn by 2030.

“The world of climate risk management offers a range of innovations that can be used together to transform agriculture,” said Jon Hellin, a Senior Scientist at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), a CGIAR centre.  “For example, index insurance can help farmers bounce back from droughts and floods but can also be used to encourage adoption of other climate adaptation practices. It can be bundled with seed, providing an incentive to try new varieties, for example drought or heat-tolerant maize.”

Yet despite progress in identifying adaptation strategies, experts also highlighted the need for substantial investment to scale up such solutions.

Adaptation costs are estimated between US$20 to 30 billion per year until 2030, according to the African Development Bank, yet Africa is the continent least able to afford to fund such measures.

“We know that we need to adapt to climate change to make farming a less risky business,” said Sonja Vermeulen, lead author of recent report on the “Economic Advantage” of smallholder adaptation, produced in collaboration with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). The report showed that returns to farmers would more than double from investing in adaptation. “And we have also now shown that there is an economic incentive to invest in African agriculture.”

“Mobilising climate funds to help smallholders cope with global warming will be in their best interests and keep food on the world’s table.”

In addition to mobilising investment, the event outlined the following priorities for collective action:

  • Building the capacity of African nations to adapt – through both regional partnerships and North-South, South-South exchanges
  • Supporting technology transfer and innovation - by building policy frameworks that enable technology adoption, and the institutional capacity to determine locally-appropriate solutions
  • Measuring and monitoring progress – by including indicators for measuring adaptation in agriculture in accountability frameworks associated with the Paris Agreement

About the Adaptation of African Agriculture: From Science to Action event

Visit the event webpage. The most comprehensive gathering of high-level experts in African agricultural adaptation met at COP22 in Marrakech on November 13. The discussion centred on how to implement an ambitious new initiative launched by the Moroccan government, that seeks to mobilise $30 billion for Africa to transform and adapt its agriculture to a changing climate. The event showcased the most promising climate adaptation strategies for the continent, which could deliver food security to the 230 million people still suffering from chronic hunger in the region. The event was co-hosted by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) and the Government of Morocco, in collaboration with CGIAR, International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), International Fertilizer Association (IFA), Groupe Crédit Agricole du Maroc, Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture (SFSA), Agriculture and Climate Risk Enterprise (ACRE) Africa, CTA - Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Co-operation.

About the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS)

The CGIAR Research Program
on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), led
by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), brings together some of the world’s best researchers in agricultural science, development research, climate science and Earth System science, to identify and address the most important interactions, synergies and tradeoffs between climate change, agriculture and food security. www.ccafs.cgiar.org