Stories tagged: climate change

Conserving Africa’s Precious Resource Base While Fighting Hunger

As part of our agroecology in action series, Kalongo Chitengi, Zambia Country Director, Self Help Africa speaks to Farm Africa about the importance of sustainable agriculture and responsible farming for preserving Africa’s environment and ecosystems.

Rosemary Chate’s seven children gather around the table inside their home in Malela, a village in Zambia’s remote Northern Province. They dig their spoons into bowls of food prepared by their mother – for the second time that day.

Not long ago, Rosemary Chate’s family would assemble to eat just once a day – their resources, for many months each year, were so thin that they needed to ration their food supplies to just a single family meal.

This is the reality for millions of African farmers like Rosemary. Many challenges are keeping yields on the continent low. Farmers lack access to inputs that farmers in developed countries have utilized for decades, from quality seeds and herbicides, to the right type of fertilizer for their undernourished soils. The hand hoe – even in this century – is still the main tool for smallholder families. Migration to urban areas and the impact of AIDS have left many rural homesteads with a labour shortage.

75% of Africa’s soil is degraded, costing African countries up to 10% of their GDP. Yet Africa has almost 50% of the world’s uncultivated land (Source: IFPRI)

Climate change has also emerged as another challenge, and rural families grapple with adaption. Changes in the climate have brought with them not only drought and flooding, but new plant diseases and insect attacks. The fall armyworm in sub-Saharan Africa has caused tremendous damage. This unpredictable reality has made crop management very difficult, and indigenous knowledge alone can no longer suffice.

African farmers need scientific innovation – from low to high tech – to face these challenges.

Testing vitally important to ensure that farmers are using the right tools and innovations to make sure soils are healthy (Credit: Georgina Smith/CIAT)

Yet preserving Africa’s environment, its most precious resources after its people, is also a high priority. This is one of the fundamental concerns of agroecology – ensuring farmers can produce food and earn a good living, while keeping the natural resource base intact.

With the right approaches that blend traditional knowledge with scientific innovation, this can be achieved.

At Self Help Africa, we are working with farmers to achieve this through the implementation of conservation agriculture. In Zambia alone, we have reached over 80,000 farmers  in the last five years.

Conservation farming involves a combination of approaches. First, farmers are encouraged to intercrop a variety of species, such as groundnuts, which can naturally fix nitrogen to the soil, and cassava, for example. This ensures maximum use of a piece of land that has been cleared – producing more food with less resources.

Crop rotation and mulching, along with an integrated use of mineral and organic fertilizers are also part conservation agriculture.

59-year old Felister Namfukwe has seen the benefits of this farming approach. Not only are her soils healthier, but her income is as well. With the help of her sons and her profits from groundnuts, she is building a new home made of brick, replacing her previous mud home.

“Being part of this (Self Help Africa) project has lightened my burden,” she told us.

We also work with local farmers to build their capacity to grow good quality seed, and to strengthen community based seed systems. Recycling seed is a common practice in Africa, when access to better seed is scarce. However, recycled seed loses its efficacy.

We are currently working with 300 seed growers across the country, who are multiplying seeds that are more able to cope with climate extremes, are higher yielding and more resistant to pests and disease.

In Zambia’s remote Western Province, the Kamasika Seed Growers Association illustrates how effective community-based seed multiplication is assisting local food production in the face of climate change.

The group received training and support in seed multiplication techniques from Self Help Africa and government advisors on the technical requirements for producing certifiable seed. The farmers were then linked to a new state-run seed testing laboratory, established with support from Self Help Africa in nearby Mongu town, to ensure that the seed being produced met the requisite germination, moisture content and other standards required to attain certification.

The group has since opened several retail shops where they sell farm inputs, including certified groundnut, bean, sorghum, maize and vegetable seed that they are producing, and supply to several thousand smallholder farmers across the Province.

African farmers are most at risk from rising temperatures and persistent hunger. We must ensure they have access to all the tools and technologies necessary to thrive in the face of these threats.

 Featured photo credit: WFO

What We’ve Been Overlooking in the Great Debate on Livestock

In this guest post, FAO Livestock Development Officer Anne Mottet outlines new research that reveals humans and livestock do not compete for earth’s resources as much as previously thought.

We cannot expand the Earth boundaries. Our natural resources are finite. But every day there are more people on the planet, and how to feed them all remains a number one issue.

The livestock sector is often cited as being particularly burdensome on the environment. In addition to the methane gas livestock emits, animals require a lot of nutritious feed. This feed needs to be grown on agricultural land, using water, energy and nutrients. It can be argued that this is an indirect and resource-intensive way of feeding the world. The picture is however more complex.

There is currently no official and complete international database of what livestock consume. This is why FAO explored this issue in a recent study. What are livestock eating and how much animal food is produced with it? Continue reading

OCT152018
International Day of Rural Women

15th October 2018

Global

The first International Day of Rural Women was observed on 15 October 2008. This international day, established by the General Assembly in its resolution 62/136 of 18 December 2007, recognizes “the critical role and contribution of rural women, including indigenous women, in enhancing agricultural and rural development, improving food security and eradicating rural poverty.”

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SEP52018
African Green Revolution Forum

5th – 8th September 2018

Kigali, Rwanda

Africa has great aspirations for the future. These are possible, but will require Africa’s agricultural sector and food systems to more rapidly and sustainably deliver incomes, food security, nutrition, and wider economic opportunities.The 2018 AGRF will take stock, evaluate actions, and learn from compelling evidence across the continent, presented by many of the most inspiring leaders turning agriculture into thriving enterprises. These leadership will include farmers, public sector thought leaders, private sector champions, agripreneurs, and many others.

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Hashtags: #AGRF2018

SEP122018
Global Action Climate Summit

12th -14th September 2018

San Francisco, USA

The Global Climate Action Summit will showcase the actions states and regions, cities, companies, investors and civil society have taken already to reduce their emissions; secure bold commitments to do even more, show that decarbonization; job generation and resilient economic growth go hand-in-hand and galvanize a global movement for climate action that leaves no one behind. It will also be a launchpad for deeper worldwide commitments and accelerated action from countries—supported by all sectors of society—that can put the globe on track to realize the historic Paris Agreement.

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Hastags: StepUp2018, #GCAS2018

Moving with the Times: Pastoralists Share Lessons in Sustainability

The world’s 200 million pastoralists find themselves on the frontline of climate change, contending with extreme temperatures, droughts and scarce resources.

While they face these challenges, they are also well-placed to offer lessons in how to adapt to these new conditions.

At this year’s Global Agenda for Sustainable Livestock (GASL) meeting in Mongolia, two herders shared their experiences of striving for sustainability in livestock-keeping.

“Pastoralism is a very special livelihood,” said Elizabeth Katushabe, from the Pastoral and Environmental Network in the Horn of Africa, Uganda. “In Africa, livestock is a key social and economic asset. It’s very important to us.

“It’s the most viable livelihood in these complex and unique eco-systems.”

Elizabeth explained that as a people with an intimate knowledge of the land, pastoralists had important insights into their changing environment.

“Most people think that we move aimlessly. Herders move periodically with their livestock with a purpose – they move in search of these seasonal, scarce resources,” she added.

In many cases, pastoralists make use of land that is unsuitable for growing crops and so would otherwise be useless. It is estimated that two thirds of the world’s arable land cannot be used for cropping.

As well as traditional knowledge of land stewardship and livestock-keeping, Elizabeth explained that pastoralists were also making use of new technology, such as solar power to generate light and allow them to milk cows at night, when temperatures were cooler and flies were sleeping.

A new paper, presented at GASL, highlighted the importance of dairy interventions in poverty reduction, showing increases in household income of up to 600 per cent where cattle ownership or dairy production was improved.

 

 

In Mongolia, climate change is contributing to the challenge of maintaining adequate fodder for livestock, with as much as 65 per cent of rangeland now degraded.

“We have been seeing the negative consequences of climate change,” said Tseveenkhuu Buyannemekh, a Mongolian herder from Bogd Soum in Bayankhongor province.

“In the winter, it becomes extremely cold and, in the summer, it’s very hot. It’s difficult to do the hay-making in autumn time because of a lack of grass.

“If we grow some feed in summer time, it will help us generate more income.”

Tseveenkhuu explained that Mongolian herder groups had been agreeing land management plans with local authorities in recent years to help preserve the precious rangeland and improve productivity.

“We have been living for hundreds of years in this nomadic lifestyle,” he added.

“I have received good land from my ancestors and I aim to pass it on to future generations. I have daughters and when they are grown up, I believe they will continue being herders.”More information about the GASL meeting and its priorities is available online.