Why partnerships are key to boosting smallholders’ resilience to climate change

By Katrin Glatzel and Gordon Conway

This article was originally posted by The World Farmer’s Organisation e-magazine. Read it here.

As we all know, crops, grazing land, fisheries and livestock are already negatively affected by climatic changes and extremes. The recent El Niño, likely to be the strongest on record, has affected the food security of a vast number of people across the world. Among them, millions of smallholder farmers in developing countries, who own less than one hectare of land, live on less than US$1 per day and do not grow enough food to feed their families.

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Credit: HarvestPlus, Zambia

Across Africa, achieving food security for all will become increasingly difficult, and governments are under more pressure than ever to boost productivity and accelerate growth. However, the agricultural growth and food security goals set out by the African Union’s Malabo Declaration have underestimated the risk that climate change will pose to food and nutrition security, according to a new briefing paper by the Montpellier Panel.  The paper, “Set for Success: Climate-Proofing the Malabo Declaration” argues that the Declaration, adopted in 2014 by African Union nations to double agricultural productivity and end hunger by 2025, is an important step in the right direction, but has failed to emphasise the risk for smallholder agriculture to climate change. [Read more…]

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African policy to end hunger silent on climate risk

By Baraka Rateng’

This article was originally published on SciDev.Net. Read the original article.

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People digging an artificial pond to alleviate drought in Ethiopia. Photo credit@ UNDP Ethiopia

The African Union’s Malabo Declaration adopted in 2014 to double agricultural productivity and end hunger by 2025 underestimated the risk that climate change will pose, a report says.

The declaration failed to consider investing in Africa’s scientific capacity to combat climate threats, according to the report, which was produced by the UK-based Agriculture for Impact, and launched in Rwanda this month (14 June).

“Food security and agricultural development policies in Africa will fail if they are not climate-smart”, says Gordon Conway, director of Agriculture for Impact and chair of the Montpellier Panel, which is made up of African and European experts in fields such as agriculture and global development, in a statement.

“It is important that African governments have a voice in the international discussions and commitments on climate change.”

Ousmane Badiane, International Food Policy Research Institute

[Read more…]

Mastering the last mile to food security

By Alice Marks, @alicemarks0

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IFPRI, Milo Mitchell

Is there light at the end of the tunnel for achieving food and nutrition security? According to Roberto Ridolfi, Director for Sustainable Growth and Development at the European Commission, there is not far left to go, but the journey still presents many obstacles to overcome. To him, the last mile is “the last inch between the fingers of the farmer and the seed in the soil.” On June 14th, the eve of the European Development Days, delegates congregated in Brussels at a workshop entitled Going the Last Mile: Accelerating Progress in Food Security and Nutrition. The evocative title conjured up different images for each speaker, which combine to create a path along this mile:

Step one: use the brain

For a long-distance runner, like Stineke Oenema from the United Nations Standing Committee on Nutrition, “the last mile of a marathon can be the hardest to complete”. The last mile is when the brain must be engaged to mentally, as well as physically, push towards the finish line. Similarly, now is the time to engage the knowledge of scientists, engineers, and experts in order to overcome the final barriers, such as lack of access to a varied diet or improved seeds, which allow food insecurity and malnutrition to persist.

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Credit: Scott Wallace, World Bank

Indeed, in order to create sustainable agricultural growth research is desperately needed, for instance to generate improved varieties of crops. An excellent example of the impact that this can have was delivered by HarvestPlus Country Manager for Rwanda, Joseph Mulambu, who discussed their biofortified high-iron beans. Not only can a portion of the biofortified beans provide half of the daily requirement of iron, but the beans have been shown to be drought resistant, inferring an extra advantage to those who grow them. Using conventional breeding techniques, HarvestPlus scientists have contributed a crop that is nutritious and can reduce iron deficiency while at the same time improves farmer resilience to droughts, which are likely to become more severe and more frequent due to climate change. This is exactly the kind of innovation that helps the finish line come into view. [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…]