The frontier for climate resilience begins with smallholder farmers

Tackling climate change in Africa will work effectively if efforts are first geared towards eliminating challenges faced by smallholder farmers across the continent, experts say.

The problem of climate change and how it has affected the continent’s agriculture sector was one of the key topics at the 7th African Green Revolution Forum in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.

The week-long forum kicked off Monday, September 4 and runs until Friday, September 8.

On Wednesday, experts and policymakers met in a symposium titled “The Business of Smallholder Farmers: Building Resilience and Mitigating and Adapting to Climate Change in African Agriculture”, where they examined the role of agencies, governments and the private sector in overcoming the adverse effects brought about by climate change.

Anthony Nyong, Director of Climate Change and Green Growth at the African Development Bank (AfDB), told participants that unless governments and the private sector invest more to overcome climate change challenges to smallholder farmers, the continent risks failing to attain its food security targets.

“Climate change is a challenge to global development, but, specifically, it is a challenge to food production in Africa. There is a dire need to increase the capacity of smallholder farmers to overcome its adverse effects,” he said.

He noted that many African farmers, as has been noted through surveys in Kenya and Ethiopia, rely heavily on traditional methods to understand weather patterns – and this has made it difficult for them to mitigate risks brought about by climate change.

“African farmers have demonstrated a limited capacity to adapt to modern information-gathering tools on climate change. They cannot overcome a challenge they do not understand, and that is why more governments need to increase their expenditure on developing meteorological stations required to deliver necessary information to the farmers,” he said.

“The Bank has injected at least US $24 billion dollars into African agriculture; and that is not enough,” Nyong continued. “Every country needs to put money into it. Governments are supposed to be investing at least 10 percent of their budgets in agriculture to make food production more resilient to climate change – but few countries adhere to this.”

His argument was complemented by Andrew Mude, Principle Economist at the International Food Policy Research Institute, who told participants that responding to drought in Sub-Saharan Africa – such as the one in Northern Kenya – needs private investors to come on board.

“Agriculture should no longer be considered a social activity, but as a business. That is why the environment needs to be conducive for private investments in veterinary services, irrigation and fertilizers, as well as following pastoralist patterns and understand their needs,” he said.

“Livestock and pastoral systems need to be studied professionally so that investors can get reason to inject money in increasing business-oriented farming that is resilient to climate change in the long term.”

Other participants, such as Mark Cackler, Manager of Food and Security at the World Bank, noted that there is no country that ignored agriculture and managed to develop.

He also called on African nations to shift from exporting raw materials to adding value to their agriculture raw materials.

The AfDB established the Climate Investment Funds (CIF) in 2008 as one of the largest climate financing instruments in the world, with an investment of US $8.3 billion focused on offering developing countries an urgently needed jump-start toward achieving low-carbon and climate-resilient development.

Under the Africa Climate Change Fund, the Bank also offers grants of US $250,000-US $ 1 million to scale-up access to climate finance and to support climate-resilient, low-carbon development in African countries.

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