Africa stands at a critical juncture in its history, as it faces the twin challenges of climate change and food security. As global temperatures rise and weather patterns become increasingly unpredictable, the continent’s agricultural systems are under threat, as they are forced to bear the brunt of severe droughts, floods and heat waves. Once seemingly confined to the pages of scientific journals, the climate change phenomena is now etched in every morsel put on plates. Food – the sustenance of life – hangs on a delicate balance that demands attention, compassion and united action.
Ignoring the climate crisis: Gambit or a catastrophe for the future of Africa?
Failing to acknowledge the urgency of the climate crisis and sidestepping the imperative for immediate action is a risky gambit that Africa simply cannot afford. Climate change is a human creation that has exacerbated the risks of doing business. The agricultural sector, a linchpin of many African economies, is highly susceptible to the disruptions caused by climate change. Climate inaction will inevitably propel Africa towards a catastrophic future characterized by widespread food insecurity, economic instability and escalating conflict.
Inversely, this moment offers us a unique opportunity — a call to collectively recognize the stakes, unite in resolve and pave a sustainable path towards resilience and prosperity. The urgency of climate adaptation and mitigation demands an integrated approach that combines technology, science, policy and investments. Technological innovations have the power to revolutionize agriculture, making it more resilient and low emissions. Drought-resistant crop varieties, innovative digital technologies and climate-smart farming techniques can all mitigate the impacts of changing weather patterns and improve productivity.
A robust example of this united front is the Great Green Wall initiative, aimed at combatting desertification across the Sahel region. This collaborative effort involves more than 20 African countries, demonstrating the power of shared vision and action. By planting a mosaic of trees and vegetation and promoting agroforestry, the initiative seeks to halt desert encroachment, improve soil fertility and create livelihoods for local communities. Such initiatives underscore the potential of collective resilience-building in the face of climate adversity and restoring degraded landscapes.
How policymakers can advance resilience
Collaborative policymaking and cross-sectoral dialogue are equally crucial. Governments across the continent must upgrade their national adaptation policies and plans so that they incentivize sustainable land use, promote agroforestry, safeguard biodiversity and foster the use of sustainable renewable energy to power agri-food systems value chains. Policies must be renewed by continuously sourcing inputs from local communities, farmers, scientists and other stakeholders. Only through inclusive dialogue can solutions be tailored to the unique challenges faced by diverse regions within Africa.
Policy and plans are not enough and will not lead to the change we want. Sufficient concessional financial resources are needed to implement these policies at a continental level. Africa should also nurture and scale up all green financing products and green business models that will help transform food systems. In addition, enhanced knowledge management and exchanges, innovation and digital technologies are key ingredients for creating jobs along food systems value chains.
Women and youth empowerment in African food systems
Starting today, leaders, scientists and innovators from Africa and beyond gather for the Africa Food Systems Forum 2023 (AGRF), in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, ahead of COP28 in Dubai. Central to this year’s dialogues at the AGRF is the issue of the role of youth and women in climate action and the transition to sustainable, inclusive and resilient food systems.
Constituting over half of the workforce in the agricultural sector, especially on smallholder farms, women are also among the most vulnerable to climate change and poverty due to the numerous restrictions on their access to education, financing and other crucial resources. At the same time, it is well-known that millions of African youths enter the labour market every year, of which only a small percentage are able to secure decent employment. This year’s Summit will not only give the floor to women and youths to showcase their innovations but also define the concrete actions needed to enable them to overcome the obstacles they face and use their full potential to revolutionize food systems across the continent.
Africa’s solutions to climate at the AGRF 2023
What lies ahead for climate action in the lead-up to COP28? On the road to securing Africa’s food future, the Africa Climate Summit in Nairobi and the upcoming AGRF 2023 in Tanzania will be key milestones. Key stakeholders will gather to define the climate actions needed to fortify the resilience of food systems and agriculture, especially those that embrace climate-smart solutions. The momentum built at this forum will set the stage for climate-resilient food systems in Africa at the critical COP28 Climate Summit.
As the world gears up for COP28, we must all grasp that tackling climate change is not a solitary endeavour. It is a multi-dimensional challenge that requires collaboration, innovation and inclusivity to reshape food systems, confront emerging challenges and ensure a prosperous future for generations to come. While the path ahead may be demanding, the rewards are immeasurable. Collectively, we can shift the tide and cultivate a resilient food future for Africa. Our hands hold the seeds of hope, the commitment to resilience and the potential for a sustainable harvest. Now, more than ever, the call for united action echoes across African fields, cities and communities. Together, we can foster a productive, nutritious, inclusive, resilient and sustainable food future for Africa.