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Southern African farmers call for agriculture in climate deal

The Southern African Confederation of Agricultural Unions is bringing farmers' views to the negotiating table in Durban. Photo: ILRI/Mann.
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Nov 24, 2011



Guest post by Manyewu Mutamba

Agriculture is the economic foundation of most African countries and it makes a significant contribution to food security, employment and poverty alleviation for millions of households on the continent. Climate change will challenge farmers’ ability to produce for their needs and the markets. African farmers are particularly in grave danger from the impacts of climate change due to their production circumstances, including lack of assets and poor access to services. Already we can see the change of seasons, they are becoming irregular with shorter cropping seasons and some varieties of crops no longer growing in certain regions. Floods and droughts are becoming more severe.

This scenario tells us that farming for the future cannot be business as usual. If the agriculture sector does not respond to the challenges of climate change, millennium development goals, including food security and poverty reduction targets will not be achieved. Surprisingly, up to now there is no mention of agriculture in the agreed text of the global climate change negotiations. The Southern African Confederation of Agricultural Unions (SACAU) wants to change this, and bring farmers' views to the negotiating table.

SACAU has been granted observer status for the next session of the Conference of Parties of the UN framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which will be held in Durban, South Africa, from 28 November to 9 December 2011. SACAU has prepared a 15-point position statement (PDF) for COP 17 that reiterates the major role agriculture plays across the continent, the challenges that climate change poses to the sector, and the steps required to support adaptation and mitigation efforts by farmers.

At the conference, SACAU will call for the global negotiations to put agriculture firmly on the climate change agenda and establish a work program that will outline and coordinate adaptation and mitigation responses for the sector. Besides being central to livelihoods and economies of developing countries, agriculture also provides unique opportunities as it is perhaps the only sector with potential for both adaptation and mitigation. If the right practices are promoted, these two goals could be achieved without compromising broader goals of food security and poverty alleviation. Climate smart agriculture (CSA) will not only put food on the table and secure farmers livelihoods, it will help reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions into the atmosphere. Helping farmers with the finances and technologies they need to respond to a changing climate is one of the most important points of a possible global climate deal. The Green Climate Fund, adopted at last year’s COP in Cancun, Mexico, could help provide the finance farmers in developing countries need to make the necessary investments to transform their production practices in the near future.  Although Climate change will bring many new challenges, with the necessary support African farmers can use this as an opportunity to transform to a new, more efficient way of farming.

SACAU is also an organiser of Agriculture and Rural Development Day 2011, which will highlight how agriculture is part of the climate solution.

The Southern African Confederation of Agricultural Unions (SACAU) is a membership based organisation that represents the interests of farmers in southern Africa. Its core membership is open to national farmers’ unions based in the region. It currently has 16 core members from 12 countries. The full SACAU position statement on climate change negotiations can be accessed at

info [at] sacau [dot] org (Manyewu Mutamba) is an Analyst for Economics and Policy at SACAU.