Africa: a continent of resilience and opportunity

ID-100224355Africa is often referred to as a continent of opportunity, economic or otherwise. In part because of the progress made – since 2000, rates of extreme poverty and hunger have dropped as have the number of new HIV infections, and access to education and health care is increasing. But also due to the predicted changes to take place over the next few decades – 6 of the 10 fastest-growing economies are in Africa, and a growing youth population means that the continent will have a working-age population bigger than that of China or India by 2035.

Indeed the theme of the first ever US-Africa Leaders Summit which recently drew to a close, was “Investing in the Next Generation.”. 40 or so heads of states and government from across Africa joined President Obama in Washington to discuss the opportunities for developing sustainable African economies. A key message from the summit is that to achieve future growth, economies must tackle the drivers and impacts of climate change, and John Kerry remarked at a Working Session on Resilience and Food Security in a Changing Climate that in order to “ensure that farmers, fishermen, and the billions who depend on the food that they produce are able to endure the climate impacts that are already being felt, let alone yet to come” is to focus our efforts “on the intersection of climate and food security, by adopting creative solutions that increase food production and build resilience to climate change”.

Some political progress on supporting climate change adaptation is happening. The African Union agreed in the 2014 Malabo Declaration to increase agricultural growth to cut poverty and hunger in half by 2025, to double agricultural productivity, halve post-harvest losses and reduce stunting to 10% across the continent as well as to reduce vulnerability to climate and weather risk, and mainstream resilience.

The Global Alliance for Climate Smart Agriculture, planned to launch at the UN Secretary General’s Climate Summit on September 23, is an international alliance, aiming to drive momentum and interest on climate smart agriculture (CSA) and to become a platform to coordinate the adoption of CSA. The USAID and the Rockefeller Foundation have also recently announced a $100 million Global Resilience Partnership to “accelerate promising technologies and ideas and identify new opportunities that can better build the resilience of families, communities, countries and regions”, for example, improving drought cycle management and expanding climate-resilient agricultural practices.

Also recently launched in Nairobi, a UNEP report, Keeping Track of Adaptation Actions in Africa, presents practical examples of successful low-cost adaptation solutions from around sub-Saharan Africa. The report details several examples of adaptation projects that have helped people cope with the impacts of climate change and have also stimulated local economies and incentivised government investment and policy change. The report is in part responding to the 2013 Africa Adaptation Gap Report which recognised the potentially staggering costs of climate change for Africa. [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.

Walking the talk: Why and how African governments should transform their agriculture spending, Action Aid

AGRA Strengthens Efforts to Help Governments Attract Private Investment in Local Agribusinesses, AGRA

Climate Change and Agriculture in East Africa, IFPRI

WTO overcomes last minute hitch to reach its first global trade deal, Reuters

Amb. Quinn’s Remarks: Keynote at UN World Food Day Observance in New York, The World Food Prize

African Plant Breeding Academy launched, World Agroforestry Centre

The Guardian and Observer Christmas appeal 2013: Future Africa, The Guardian

Book links food security to political stability, Cornell Chronicle [Read more…]

Is Sustainability Still Possible?

Sustainability

Every year the Worldwatch Institute releases their annual State of the World report covering such previous topics as consumerism, climate change and food security.  In 2013, State of the World turns its attention to a popular topic, the concept of sustainability.

The report looks at the definition and use of the word sustainability, whether the concept has outlasted its usefulness and, if not, how we can measure sustainability? Practical approaches and policies for achieving sustainability, including geoengineering and corporate transformation, are investigated along with ways of coping with drastic environmental change and resource depletion, should we fail.

The term “Sustainability” is used frequently in our language today and with a myriad of different meanings, something the President of the Worldwatch Institute, Robert Engelman, calls “Sustainababble”. Its definition, in its original form is “capable of being maintained in existence without interruption or dimunition,” but since the release of the Brundtland Commission’s report in 1987 it has been used to mean ‘green’, ‘environmentally friendly’ or just ‘slightly less damaging than the conventional alternative’. The fear is that overuse of this term will result in the loss of meaning and impact, as well as an acceptance that if something is said to be ‘sustainable’ then it must be implicitly good. But good for what?

As we know the human population has surpassed a size and lifestyle that fits within environmental planetary boundaries. We consume more than Earth can provide. The new State of the World report asks the questions, have we gone so far that recovery is impossible and is it too late to change our future? “Has humanity already overshot the carrying capacity of the Earth so badly that we are doomed to a horrible crash after oil, or freshwater, or topsoil, or fish, or the ozone layer, or many other things –after one or all of them run out?” [Read more…]