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African Farmers Can Mitigate Climate Change Effects

Published on Monday 14th December 2009

IN November, I was nominated by the International Federation of Agricultural Producers (IFAP) and invited by the African Development Bank to present a paper, at the 2nd Africa Water Week in Johannesburg, South Africa. This continental meeting was convened by Africa Ministers Conference on Water and the government of South Africa in partnership with various United Nations Agencies.

The water meeting brought together 700 dignitaries from all over the world, 40 ministers from Africa, the Prince of Orange, Willem Alexander Ferdinand and Emmanuel Trevor, represented president Jacob Zuma of South Africa.

Trevor said three memorable lines concerning water, energy and security issues. He said energy has alternatives while water has none. "Water is life and sanitation is dignity." He concluded that without water, there is no agriculture. The foregoing lines, I believe, are principle benchmarks that ongoing global debates and national plans on energy, water and food security should be anchored.

My paper was meant to flag farmers issues on the agenda, and identify areas that must be financed if farmers have to continue feeding the bulging population on the continent (Africa's population growth is at 2.4% per annum).

I told the meeting that, agriculture, which produces multiple services from food, feed, fuel and fibre, is essentially dependent on water as one of its key strategic resources. Yet water availability and access, is under severe stress due to climate change and other man made environmental degradation tendencies on the continent. I reminded the audience that 95% of the food in sub-Saharan Africa depends on rain-fed agriculture and on average, 7% of sub-Sahara Africans are employed by agriculture.

It was important to point out a new recognition viewed through initiatives on the continent that aim at financing agriculture sector like the Maputo Declaration and the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) where many African countries committed to the principle of agriculture-led growth as a main strategy though in practice is still a feigned standpoint.

I argued that the fundamental role of agriculture is to ensure food security for consumers and secure livelihoods for producers. Therefore, African governments and concessional capital agencies like the African Development Bank must invest in enabling agriculture infrastructure.

For example, without roads and basic infrastructure, farmers cannot receive basic inputs or get their products to the market. Without secure land tenure and modern equipment for farm production and processing, yields will continue to be low and post-harvest losses high. Without a firm national, regional and international commitment to agricultural development and a stable and conducive policy environment in which it can take place, investment will not come.

Therefore, the following areas must be financed.

Enhancing production, productivity

To contain food and energy insecurity, land, labour, and capital will have to be raised substantially. To this end, financing should be directed towards eight core areas; technology development, research, advisory services, disease, pest and vector control. In addition, sustainable management of land and water resources financing should be scaled up from current $11b to $100b.

Improving access and sustainability of markets

Farmers on the continent need to be assisted to participate in higher value-added market chains than they can at present. Therefore, Africa must finance major public works like roads, railways, and telecommunications.

To harness markets, new investments must be directed towards to three core areas, increased value-addition in agriculture, the warehouse receipt system and improving post harvest handling, storage and rural market infrastructure.

Farmer institution development

Farmer organisations play a lead role in technology promotion, market organisation and value addition. Yet majority farmer institutions in Africa are still characterised by low capacity to effectively perform their roles and to demand delivery of agricultural extension services.

This, therefore, means that African financing efforts should focus on strengthening the capacity of these institutions to fully participate in the commodity value chain development and combating climate change and ensuring accountability of public resources in Agriculture.

Fund to reward farmers for ecosystem services and carbon offsets

Farmers interact with the environment daily and are a centre of gravity in climate change mitigation and adaptation.

In order to achieve long-term positive effects, incentives must encourage and enable farmers to continue providing eco-system services through the adoption of environmentally friendly practices.

Farmers should therefore be able to enhance water quality and ensure its efficient use are recognised.

Specifically, farmers should be offered financial incentives to invest in renewable energy, farm practices that sequestrate carbon activities and protect and restore water catchment systems.

Farmers must be supported to improve agriculture and water use. Public policy makers need to re-engage African farmers and other stakeholders to build an integrated approach to agricultural and rural development.

The writer is a consultant, manager policy research and advocacy,

Uganda National Farmers Federation

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