By Charles Mkoka
NAIROBI, Kenya, October 15, 2016 (ENS) – African delegates from more than 45 countries have welcomed progress made by the New Partnership for African Development, NEPAD, Gender Climate Change and Agriculture Programme, established to foster resilience among farmers to the shocks of climate change.
Government and civil society representatives, delegates from private sector and farmer organizations, and regional economic communities, as well as multilateral and bilateral partners gathered for the second Africa Climate Smart Agriculture Alliance Forum at the Safari Park Hotel in Nairobi, October 11-13.
Convened by the NEPAD Agency and the Government of Kenya, it was held under the theme “From agreement to action: implementing African Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) for growth.”
The INDCs are initial pledges made by nearly all countries under the Paris climate agreement, adopted in December 2015, which is set to enter into force on November 4.
The transition from INDCs to Nationally Determined Contributions, NDCs, has key implications for Africa’s development, especially agriculture.
The NDCs will become the world’s first greenhouse gas reduction targets that apply equally to both developed and developing countries.
At the African Union Summit in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea in June 2014, Heads of State and Government adopted a set of concrete agriculture goals to be attained by 2025. This set of new goals shows a more targeted approach to achieving shared prosperity and improved livelihoods.
The key goal is to establish 25 million climate smart farmers by 2025.
In Nairobi last week, delegates to the Africa Climate Smart Agriculture Alliance Forum reiterated the need to strengthen and consolidate the knowledge base of climate smart agriculture, CSA, technologies, practices and initiatives.
They confirmed that agriculture should remain high on Africa’s development agenda as a critical policy initiative for African economic growth and poverty reduction.
This supports the aspirations and goals in Africa’s Agenda 2063.
Climate smart agriculture will shape enhanced and sustainable agricultural productivity, sustainable food systems as well as broad-based social and environmental resilience from household through to landscape level.
During the Forum it become apparent that African countries are acutely aware of the negative impacts of climate change on agriculture. Yet, gaps and disconnects still exist between awareness of impacts and adaptation efforts.
Delegates mentioned gaps such as the absence of plans and policies that incorporate climate change issues, lack of education and outreach among communities, and information that fails to reach intended beneficiaries.
Also lacking are institutional frameworks for action, drought resistant crop varieties, and smallholder water harvesting.
The absence of these strategies for alleviating poverty makes people less resilient to climate change.
These barriers are challenging as Africa endeavors to meet the target of 25 million farmers practicing climate smart agriculture come the year 2025 – less than 10 years away.
“In order to catalyze better adaptation and cope with the impacts of climate change, the various stakeholders such as governments, NGOs and civil society, and private sector should work together with communities proactively,” said Estherine Fotabong, NEPAD’s director of programme implementation and coordination.
“Communities should be fully capacitated in various areas of crop management, community mobilization and empowerment, disaster preparedness and have access to robust practical and hands on technologies and access to information such as crop varieties that are drought and disease tolerant,” Fotabong said. She called for transformative adaptation to climate change on the entire African continent.
The difficulties of smallholder farmers were brought into focus with a call to promote climate smart agriculture success stories and award other farmers opportunities to adopt such sustainable innovations.
Fotabong stressed that knowledge sharing is key to agricultural and rural transformation, through which indigenous knowledge should not be ignored but used as synergy with scientific findings.
She explained that rural farmers are able to tell the changes they are experiencing over the years in simple language. She added they cannot be ignored in their quest to find solutions to the changing environment.
Governor of Nairobi City Council Evance Kidero said the City of Nairobi makes a profound contribution to urban food consumption in Kenya, if not in the whole of East Africa. So, he said, urban farming is being encouraged as a way to sustainably increase agricultural productivity.
This was confirmed during a visit to one urban farmer who farms right in the heart of Nairobi. A retired former assistant commissioner of police, Albert Waweru, owner of Miare Daily Farm, told Forum delegates and media during a field visit to his farm that he started small with only one calf worth US$350.
Now he has grown the farm and has over 30 dairy cows that give milk, but says even they cannot satisfy the demand.
Being an urban green farmer, Waweru said finding enough water for his animals and to grow the vegetables that he sells is always challenging.
“Rain alone cannot be practical. I decided to dig underground water harvesting tanks and collect every drop of water that is available,” said Waweru. “As you can see my house is made in such a way that I collect water and store it underground while the holding pens of the animals are on top. The plan is to make use of the spaces that are available to their maximum use,” he told the delegates.
Representing the German government Julia Kronberg elaborated on the importance of policy frameworks for addressing the adverse effects of climate change on the African continent.
Kronberg said that the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme is the recognized brand for rallying stakeholders to the urgency of embracing climate smart agriculture.
Abebe Haile Gabriel, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s deputy regional representative for Africa, maintained that countries need support to achieve their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions to the Paris Climate Agreement.
Through the effort to meet their INDC, the importance of climate smart agriculture comes to the fore for many African countries.
As part of synergy building to ensure more is done to enable climate smart agriculture, NEPAD has entered into alliance with five international nongovernmental organizations that work through communities and community-based groups.
The NEPAD-NGO Agriculture Climate Change Alliance involves: Catholic Relief Services, Concern, CARE, World Vision and Oxfam.
The Alliance aims to increase its presence across the African continent to ensure that better coping mechanisms reach farmers to support their resilience in the face of climate shocks such as droughts and floods.