Protecting Africa’s Backbone: transforming agriculture in the face of climate change

By Alice Marks, @alicemarks0

Smallholder farmers in Africa are already aware that the climate is changing. For many, the growing seasons are becoming shorter and more difficult to plan, because of erratic and unpredictable weather including droughts and floods. Often this means that crops fail or yields are lower and livelihoods are impacted with less produce to feed the household, let alone surplus to sell at markets to gain an income. Unfortunately, the climatic conditions are likely to only get worse, with mean temperatures across Africa expected to rise faster than the global average, reaching as high as 3°C to 6°C greater than pre-industrial levels. The pressure on African countries to boost productivity and accelerate growth is now higher than ever and is being further complicated by the potential adverse impacts of climate change and extreme weather events.

In this context the Montpellier Panel  has launched a new briefing paper today – Set for Success: Climate-proofing the Malabo Declaration . The Panel urges African governments to fully recognise the scale of the threat posed by climate change to smallholder farming and to build climate-smart agriculture strategies into their National Agricultural Investments Plans that will help farmers mitigate the risks and adapt to the changing weather conditions. The paper also highlights more than 15 examples of success stories and programmes that have been shown to be impactful and can be scaled-up. Building resilience will be key to achieving the shared agendas of the Malabo Declaration, the 2015 Paris Agreement, and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). To this end, the Montpellier Panel make the following recommendations:

  1. diagramSupporting the Malabo Declaration by building comprehensive information on climate-related stresses and shocks, both nationally and regionally, as well as their impacts on food and nutrition security.
  2. Mainstreaming climate-smart agriculture programmes into the next generation of National Agriculture Investment Plans to ensure a stronger focus on climate change and extreme weather events.
  3. African countries need support, through the African Union, NEPAD, CAADP and regional associations of National Agricultural Research Systems, to develop country investment plans that reflect a stronger, collective voice for Africa in international climate policy processes
  4. Facilitating African governments’ access to climate funds through the Green Climate Fund and other innovative finance mechanisms that will help countries implement climate-smart agriculture programmes.
  5. Improving Africa’s scientific capacity which will guide climate change adaptation and mitigation interventions in agriculture.
  6. Improving training for farmers on sustainable farming techniques, through improved extension services, farmer field schools and utilisation of digital technologies.

[Read more…]

AGRF, CAADP and an African agenda for 2063

headerimgHeld over 5 days from the 1st September in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the African Union’s annual Africa Green Revolution Forum this year was centred on the AU designated ‘Year of Agriculture and Food Security’ and the political will needed to achieve sustainable food and nutritional security across the continent.

In conjunction with the 2014 Year of Agriculture and Food Security, a report from the AU Commission, presented as a feature issue of the AU ECHO newsletter, highlights stories and experiences from member states of the African Union and from regional institutions as they have worked to implement the Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP) over the last 10 years. For example in Rwanda the joint Comprehensive Food Security and Vulnerability Assessment (CFSVA) and National Nutrition Survey of 2012 showed that the proportion of households failing to meet minimum food requirements declined from 35% to 21%, in part due to increased agricultural production and productivity under CAADP I. According to the 2010/11 Integrated Household Living Conditions Survey, poverty incidence reduced from 59% in 2006 to 45% in 2011, and the 2012 Rwanda Economic Update of the World Bank linked almost half of this reduction to developments in agriculture such as production increases and increased commercialisation.

In June 2014 at the African Union summit in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, African leaders voiced their commitment to prioritising agriculture in national development plans, to ending hunger and to cutting poverty in half by 2025. The declaration also re-affirmed intentions to devote 10% of their national budgets to agricultural development and to achieve 6% annual growth in agricultural GDP as well as double agricultural productivity, halve post-harvest losses and reduce stunting to 10%. The recent forum (AGRF) included discussions between the public and private sectors to turn these commitments into reality and to accelerate agricultural transformation in Africa.

Since 2003 and the Maputo Declaration on CAADP, annual agricultural GDP growth has averaged nearly 4% in Africa, much higher than rates of growth in the decades before but still falling short of commitments. Progress on CAADP is difficult to discern, even within the AU’s report figures differ, but according to ONE, 43 counties have signed up to CAADP, 38 have signed a CAADP compact and 28 have developed national agriculture and food security investment plans. Only 8 countries have consistently attained the 10% of public expenditure to agriculture target, however, although there has been a significant rise in public agricultural spending overall – on average rising by over 7% each year across Africa since 2003, almost double public agricultural expenditures since the launch of CAADP. At the regional level, 4 out of 8 Regional Economic Communities (RECs) have signed regional CAADP compacts and 3 have developed full investment plans.

The report points to some of the challenges facing CAADP over the next 10 years, one of the biggest obstacles cited is a lack of political will and an unpredictable policy climate, which contributes to poor policy coordination, disorganised markets and low domestic and foreign investment in agriculture. The CAADP process is also quoted by the East Africa Farmers Federation as being a complex one, requiring all stakeholders to come together to plan, strategize and hold each other accountable. To date it has largely been state actors able to access the resources needed to participate, and greater effort needs to be made, if CAADP is to be successful, to ensure farmers are included in the CAADP agenda. [Read more…]

9 ways to engage youth in agriculture

ID-10083575In Africa over 200 million people are aged between 15 and 24, the youngest population in the world. This age group according to the African Economic Outlooks is expected to double in number by 2045. Low profitability, poor security of land tenure, and high risks are just some of the reasons Africa’s youth are leaving rural areas to seek jobs in cities, a migration that could see Africa with a shortage of farmers in the future. Given that agriculture is one of the continent’s biggest economic sectors, generating broad economic development and providing much of the population with food, this poses a serious threat to the future of farming and to meeting the demands of a rapidly growing urban population. Growing youth unemployment, ageing farmers and declining crop yields under traditional farming systems mean engaging youth in agriculture should be a priority.

Recent articles highlight this key challenge and suggest solutions for making agriculture more attractive to younger generations.

1)      Link social media to agriculture

The rise of social media and its attraction among young people with access to the appropriate technologies could be a route into agriculture if the two could be linked in some way. Mobile phone use in Africa is growing rapidly and people are now much more connected to sources of information and each other. Utilising these channels to promote agriculture and educate young people could go a long way in engaging new groups of people into the sector.

2)      Improve agriculture’s image

Farming is rarely portrayed in the media as a young person’s game and can be seen as outdated, unprofitable and hard work. Greater awareness of the benefits of agriculture as a career needs to be built amongst young people, in particular opportunities for greater market engagement, innovation and farming as a business. The media, ICT and social media can all be used to help better agriculture’s image across a broad audience and allow for sharing of information and experiences between young people and young farmers.

3)      Strengthen higher education in agriculture

Relatively few students choose to study agriculture, perhaps in part because the quality of agricultural training is mixed. Taught materials need to be linked to advances in technology, facilitate innovation and have greater relevance to a diverse and evolving agricultural sector, with a focus on agribusiness and entrepreneurship. Beyond technical skills, building capacity for management, decision-making, communication and leadership should also be central to higher education. Reforms to agricultural tertiary education should be designed for young people and as such the process requires their direct engagement. [Read more…]

What we’ve been reading this week

This week’s summary on the news stories, reports and blogs that have grabbed our attention. We welcome your thoughts and comments on these articles.

Aid to Africa: private sector investment becomes new priority, The Guardian

Africa & agriculture infographic, B4FA

Learning from AGRA’s Market Access Programme, PAEPARD

Has Africa’s focus on farming borne fruit?, The Guardian

What do we know about food riots and their link to food rights? Some interesting new findings from IDS, Duncan Green, Oxfam

Rice Seed Treatments Effective, Worth Investment: Study, Science Daily

Ugandans and pork: A story that needs telling, ILRI

Change in grain policy signals China’s intent to boost meat production, IATP

Kellogg to Stop Buying Deforested Palm Oil Amid Pressure, Bloomberg Businessweek

B4FA travels to AAAS Chicago with all-African panel of speakers, B4FA

GM foods and application of the precautionary principle in Europe, UK Parliament

G8 New Alliance condemned as new wave of colonialism in Africa, The Guardian

2014: Africa at last?, The Hill

Looking to the future: African’s agricultural transformation

ID-100158788ONE Campaign on the 29th January 2014 launched their Do Agric, It Pays campaign to urge African leaders to commit to spending 10% of national budgets on agriculture, a commitment 54 African countries agreed to in 2003 but only 8 followed through on. Building on the 2014 African Union Year of Agriculture and Food Security, the campaign is drawing on evidence that greater investment in agriculture could “help lift 85 million people out of extreme poverty by 2024, provide jobs, and boost the continent’s economy”.

Alongside the launch of this campaign, ONE have also published a new report, Ripe for Change: The Promise of Africa’s Agricultural Transformation, which discusses the need for reform of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), a package of policies developed to transform agriculture in Africa and accelerate economic development.

Despite having experienced steady and positive economic growth at an average of 5% per year, Africa desperately needs accelerated economic development if it is to cope with rapid population growth. The African population is projected to quadruple over the next 90 years. The role of agriculture in stimulating inclusive economic growth is significant. The World Bank calculated that agricultural growth is 2.5 times more likely to reduce poverty than growth in any other sector. In sub-Saharan Africa agricultural growth is 11 times more effective at reducing poverty.

To capitalise on agriculture’s potential to stimulate economic development, African governments in 2003 at the African Union Summit in Maputo, Mozambique, agreed to spend 10% of national budgets on agriculture and to achieve at least 6% average annual growth in the national agricultural sector. Under CAADP, governments agreed to develop country-specific agricultural development plans. [Read more…]

What we’ve been reading this week

This week’s summary on the news stories, reports and blogs that have grabbed our attention. We welcome your thoughts and comments on these articles.

One small change of words – a giant leap in effectiveness!, World Agroforestry Centre

Policy: Twenty tips for interpreting scientific claims, Nature

Enabling African Farmers to Feed the World, Farming First

Roundtable on Sustainable African Agriculture and CAADP 2014 review, PAEPARD

Agricultural Input Subsidies. The Recent Malawi Experience, Ephraim Chirwa and Andrew Dorward

African Farmers Reap Gains Of Biotech Cotton, CoastWeek

Humans are becoming more carnivorous, Nature

Seeds of hope emerge across the world’s drylands, World Agroforestry Centre

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee to examine Food Security, UK Parliament

For sustainable growth, count on agriculture, Thomson Reuters Foundation [Read more…]

What we’ve been reading this week

This week’s summary on the news stories, reports and blogs that have grabbed our attention. We welcome your thoughts and comments on these articles.

Global map of seeds, food and biodiversity launched, SciDev.Net

CAADP 10 Years Out: How Have Countries Fared in Agricultural Development?, IFPRI

Next generation of biofuels is still years away, CTV News

Empowering people and shaping policies for resilient agriculture and food systems, Wilton Park

Transformation of food systems needed for better nutrition, FAO

Changing the Global Food Narrative, Ensia

No-till farming is on the rise. That’s actually a big deal, The Washington Post

What does ‘big business’ say about Africa when it’s off the record?, From Poverty to Power, Duncan Green

Emissions of CO2 driving rapid oceans ‘acid trip’, BBC

Environmental pressures driven by EU consumption but faced by other countries, EC Science for Environment Policy

An Accidental Cattle Ranch Points the Way in Sustainable Farming, The New York Times

Bringing perennial grain crops to Africa is aim of new Gates Foundation-funded project, Michigan State University

Warsaw climate talks expected to deliver loss and damage mechanism, Thomson Reuters Foundation