Stories tagged: COP22

Lawrence Biyika Songa: The Cost of Climate Change for Ugandan Farmers

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Q&A with Lawrence Biyika Songa, COP representative for Uganda

At the COP22 conference on climate change, held in Marrakech in November, the spotlight fell squarely on Africa and the impact of global warming on agriculture. Farming First caught up with Lawrence Biyika Songa, Uganda’s representative at the talks, to delve deeper into the issues facing farmers in the country.

FF: How is climate change affecting farmers in Uganda?

LBS: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) summarises climate change as any change in climate over time, whether due to natural variability or as a result of human activity. This is equally true in Uganda. Unsustainable utilisation of natural resources and poor technological use has increased incidences of greenhouse gas emissions. For instance, 90 per cent of energy consumption in Uganda is met by firewood, amounting to 18 million tonnes of emissions a year.

The impact of such activity has been increased weather variability, with greater frequency and intensity of weather extremes, including high temperatures leading to prolonged drought and erratic rainfall patterns. These incidences are threatening Uganda’s environmental, social and economic development, including agriculture.

Changing weather patterns in Uganda are making it difficult for farmers in the country to plan using the traditional two planting seasons, which used to be much easier to predict. Previously the weather pattern indicated two good planting seasons, March to May and September to November. Now, however, rainfall sometimes continues during the dry seasons, and prolonged dry spells during rainy seasons make it difficult for farmers to plan ahead.

Other challenges related to climate change include tropical storms, wildfire, siltation, soil erosion, pests and diseases which are causing devastating loss to farmer’s yields.

So there are five main ways that climate change is impacting farming in Uganda: (i) the area suitable for agriculture is becoming unpredictable (ii) the length of the growing season is more difficult to forecast (iii) yield potentials are varying and decreasing (iv) the frequency and severity of extreme events (in particular droughts and floods) are extreme (v) the incidence of plant diseases are high. And, in the case of livestock climate change may affect production through: (i) impacts on the quantity and quality of feed (ii) increasing heat stress (iii) changes to and spread of livestock diseases and (iv) changes in water availability.

FF: Is climate change affecting Uganda’s economy?

LBS: Yes. The National Development Plan 2010-2015 on climatic projections indicates that Uganda’s temperatures are likely to increase in the range of 0.70 C to 1.50 C by 2020. As a consequence, it has placed Uganda in a more vulnerable position. The 2nd UN World Water Development Report 2006 shows that 70 per cent of the disasters in the country are linked to climate change. On average these disasters destroy about 800,000 hectares of crops, with an economic loss in excess of Ushs 120 billion (US$ 63.2million) per year.

Climate change and associated extreme weather incidents have also impacted public health. The 1994 El Niño floods resulted in sharp rises in lakes, wide spread flooding, and extensive soil erosion and landslides in Eastern parts of the country. It’s believed that more than 1,000 lives were lost and 11,000 hospitalised due to cholera and related illness, and about 150,000 people were displaced from their homes.

Meanwhile, the 2010-2011 droughts caused an estimated US$470 million losses in food crops, cash crops and livestock as a whole. This equates to about 16 per cent of the total value of these items in GDP for 2011. The current and future increased risks from flooding and droughts are in areas of existing poverty and therefore these events have serious consequences for local economies and food security.

FF: Are there any tools and technologies that are helping Ugandan farmers to adapt to climate change?

LBS: Yes, they are using more efficient water-management technologies such as advanced drip irrigation and solar irrigation. Agricultural research is also developing other new and effective approaches to adapt to climate change. For example, scientists are studying and using beneficial microbes from soil to strengthen plant resilience to increased drought, diseases and pests brought on by climate change.

Farmers are also actively participating in the collection of climate-related data. The information from millions of smallholders farmers monitoring daily weather changes, rainfall levels and patterns and soil health are shedding light on general climate trends and guiding farming practices.

Lastly, farmers are being advised not to plant on farm land with clogged water and for farmers living in mountainous areas, they are advised to practice terracing and lay farrows to reduce run offs from heavy rains

FF: What are the barriers preventing farmers from accessing these tools and technologies?

LBS: The ability of farmers’ to adapt varies enormously depending on the region and its wealth. Uganda’s farmers often lack basic resources and choices such as money as the adoption of these methods is difficult without access to credit and readily available funds. Millions of farmers in Uganda also lack access to information about the scope of climate level changes they are experiencing. Without such information, they are unable to plan and adjust their farming practices to be sustainable for the long term with new tools and technologies. Social networks among rural farmers always help spread the use of new technology, given the prevelant communal sense among Ugandan farmers. Finally, differences in expected returns from a new technology also affect individual’s adaptation decisions.

FF: Have you met many farmers that are struggling with successfully adapting to climate change?

LBS: In many Ugandan villages, smallholder farmers are struggling to use simple technologies to monitor extreme weather and its impacts on their families and community. They are finding it difficult to detect early indications of changing rainfall patterns that would likely effect the growing season. Secondly, farmers are struggling with how to identify and manage the planting of drought-tolerant crop varieties, exotic breeds and using low cost, simple drip irrigation due to illiteracy and cost management practices.

FF: How is the Ugandan government supporting farmers to adapt to climate change?

LBS: The government of Uganda has come up with priorities for adaptation options. In the National Climate Change Costed Implementation Strategy, the government of Uganda has identified eight strategic interventions for adaptation in the agricultural sector, with a proposed budget over the next 15 years of about US$297 million (MWE, 2012). Among these interventions are the promotion of adaptive crop varieties and livestock breeds, sustainable land management and agricultural diversification.

The government’s meteorological agency, UNMA, has provided and disseminated weather information and forecasts. Farmers are therefore advised to rely on expert advice as to when they should plant for the most favourable climate conditions. The government has also embarked on farmer sensitization and awareness campaigns. For example, experts have promoted the planting of grass on the steps of mountains among farmers living on the slopes of Mountain Elgon in Eastern Uganda and those from Mountain Rwenzori to stop run-offs from heavy rains.

Finally, farmers are being advised to grow quick maturing crops such as vegetables when there is a prediction of prolonged dry spells, and they are further advised to grow cereal crops which are tolerant to drought. NGOs are also helping the government through promotion of new agricultural technologies such as agricultural extension services, which provide farmers with information about agricultural practises, including sowing, adoption of improved seeds and chicken breeds.

FF: Do you think COP2 was indeed a ‘’COP of Action’’?

LBS: Yes, thanks to the Marrakech Proclamation of Climate Action and the Partnership for Global Climate Action as the conference’s main outcomes. The political commitment to implementing the Paris Agreement has been revived in the most ardent fashion with the Marrakech Proclamation.

Writing the rule book, or operational manual, of the Paris Agreement calls for a significant boost of transparency of action, including measuring and accounting emissions reductions, the provision of climate finance, and technology development and transfer. It also includes work to design the adaptation communications, which is the primary vehicle under the Paris Agreement to share individual adaptation efforts and support needs.

FF: What action do you think the global community should be taking?

LBS: Governments should initiate powerful coalitions of public and private partners in technology initiatives for weather. About two thirds of Africans now have mobile phones, including many in rural areas, and these could play an integral part in the collection of weather and soil data. Data collected by farmers on their phones could then be aggregated and analysed by designated research institutions and shared with farmers.

Local governments could also adjust disaster response plans to accommodate changes in weather patterns. For example, the city of Philadelphia recently implemented an emergency response plan to limit the health impact of increasingly frequent heat waves on its population. Philadelphia officials estimate that their heat response plan has already reduced heat-related deaths.

For individuals, governments, and businesses, adapting to climate change requires understanding and accepting the risks of regional climate change, assessing the immediate and long-term costs and benefits of adaptation strategies, and implementing adaptations that bring the most benefits relative to the cost and risk.

Featured image courtesy of Kate Holt/Africa Practice

Adaptation of African Agriculture (AAA) Gains Momentum at COP22

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Despite being dubbed “The COP of Action”, that will transform the Paris Agreement from pledges to progress, talks to include agriculture in the climate negotiations have once again stalled at COP22 in Marrakech. Further discussion on the topic has now been postponed to May 2017, at the next meeting of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA).

However, momentum has been building around a regional initiative, known as the AAA initiative, that focuses on finding solutions to adapt African agriculture to climate change. At an event co-hosted by the Moroccan government and the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture, Climate Change and Food Security (CCAFS), experts gathered to determine priorities for collective action that will help African agriculture to build resilience to climate change, as well as feed the continent.

Representatives from the government of Morocco joined researchers, entrepreneurs and farmers from across Africa to discuss the most promising adaptation solutions for the continent.

Mohamed Ait Kadi, president of the General Council of Agricultural Development, Morocco, told the audience: “We have billed this COP as a COP for Africa, providing a unique opportunity to showcase action for Africa, in Africa. The Paris Agreement explicitly refers to safeguarding food security. In my view, the willingness to address agriculture and food security finally appears to be having some impact. We call this initiative ‘Triple A’ mainly to include the fact that investment in the Adaptation of African Agriculture is a triple A rated investment.”

According to a report released last week by the International Fund for Agricultural Development, for each dollar invested through the Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme (ASAP), farmers could earn a return of between US$1.40 and $2.60 over a 20 year period by applying climate change adaptation practices.

During a session dedicated to sustainable soil management, experts showcased the solutions and challenges facing the continent. Professor Tekalign Mamo, Program Director at the Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency, highlighted his country’s EthioSIS digital soil mapping project that has allowed for custom-blended fertilizers to be produced, and distributed at the local level. When used in conjunction with other improved agronomic practices, the project has already seen yield rises of up to 65%. Charlotte Hebebrand, Director General of the International Fertilizer Association (IFA) said: “Africa has the potential to get the best of both worlds by ‘leapfrogging’ into more integrated soil fertility management.”

She added: “By optimising its fertilizer use, no less and no more, the continent can significantly increase average crop yields while keeping greenhouse gas emissions to a minimum.”

In addition to mobilising investment, the event outlined the following priorities for collective action:

  • Building the capacity of African nations to adapt – through both regional partnerships and North-South, South-South exchanges
  • Supporting technology transfer and innovation – by building policy frameworks that enable technology adoption, and the institutional capacity to determine locally-appropriate solutions
  • Measuring and monitoring progress – by including indicators for measuring adaptation in agriculture in accountability frameworks associated with the Paris Agreement

For more information on agriculture’s role in the climate negotiations, visit the Farming First UNFCCC Toolkit.

Featured images courtesy of Neil Palmer (CIAT)

Bruce Campbell: What Does the Paris Agreement Mean for Food & Agriculture?

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The Paris Climate Agreement entered into force last week, heralding a major milestone in international action on climate change, and an ambitious target to contain global temperature rise to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, in this century. Over 100 countries, which account for nearly 70% of global emissions, have ratified the Agreement, and are now obliged to deliver on their commitments and convert their plans into action. But unless countries act decisively and meaningfully, and increase their ambitions over time, this will not be enough to safeguard food and farming.

Figure 1. Gap between the current collective ambition of national climate plans (known as NDCs) and the global 2°C goal. Source: Adapted from Rogelj et al. 2016 in Vermeulen 2016.

Figure 1. Gap between the current collective ambition of national climate plans (known as NDCs) and the global 2°C goal. Source: Adapted from Rogelj et al. 2016 in Vermeulen 2016.

Future food security in a changing climate
The Paris Agreement is made up of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), which are climate action plans developed by countries, outlining their priorities and measures. The INDCs of countries overwhelmingly put agriculture the top of the list for climate action; over 60% of submitted INDCs included mitigation in agriculture. And of the countries which included adaptation, over 90% included adaptation in agriculture. African countries in particular have expressed a clear desire to tackle these issues: 98% of African countries included adaptation actions in agriculture and 68% included mitigation actions in agriculture.

Figure 2. Inclusion of agriculture in climate pledges (INDCs). Source: Richards et al 2016 in Vermeulen et al 2016.

Figure 2. Inclusion of agriculture in climate pledges (INDCs). Source: Richards et al 2016 in Vermeulen et al 2016.

However, effective implementation will depend on the availability of financial, technological and capacity support. In fact, some countries have made several commitments conditional upon the provision of support.

Mobilizing support for climate actions

Fortunately, the Paris Agreement has set out robust frameworks to provide much-needed support and the UNFCCC’s finance mechanism, particularly the Green Climate Fund, will play a key role: US$10.3 billion have been pledged to the Fund, and the Fund has committed US$ 1.2 billion to 27 projects. But this still falls short of the ambition to mobilize US$ 100 billion per year by 2020.

In addition to financial support, the Paris Agreement will put in place new frameworks for providing technological support and enhancing capacity, which are the crucial building blocks for successful implementation of climate actions.

Science-based ambitions

The Paris Agreement obliges countries to become more ambitious in their commitments over time, with follow up Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) due in 2020 and 2025. With just 4 years left to the next NDC deadline, scientific organisations like CGIAR and its partners have an important role to play in providing technical support help countries put climate adaptation and mitigation into practice in the agriculture sector, and to distill lessons from implementation. These actions include helping countries set up early warning systems; improve water management in agricultural systems; adopt lower-emissions livestock practices; apply fertilizers more efficiently; and improve soil carbon sequestration. Decades of agriculture research can support these efforts.

To help countries stay on track and inform their future commitments, the UNFCCC will take stock of progress every 5 years starting in 2023. These ‘global stocktakes’ would measure collective progress towards global targets, looking at the whole spectrum of actions including mitigation, adaptation, financing, and technology development and transfer. The stocktakes will also be informed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), thus ensuring that the latest climate science provides inputs into future commitments.

Measuring progress is a huge and underplayed challenge. Countries are required to regularly report on their emissions and implementation efforts, and the Agreement is developing an enhanced transparency and accountability framework which would harmonize reporting and verification requirements. The global science community can facilitate this. For example, the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) has developed a Climate-Smart Agriculture programming and indicator tool, building on the wealth of approaches used by major development agencies in monitoring projects. The tool helps measure outcomes related to increased productivity, food security, adaptation, resilience, and mitigation, and could be instrumental in helping countries measure progress towards established targets.

Reality check

While the Paris Agreement represents a huge opportunity for climate action, and the early ratification offers much promise, success should not be viewed as a given. We have already reached the crucial threshold of globally averaged concentration of carbon dioxide of 400 parts per million, according to the World Meteorological Organization. In fact, 2016 has turned out to be the warmest year since modern records began, according to NASA. Currently, country plans under the Paris Agreement fall short of keeping the world within the 2°C warming limit [see figure 1].

All this means that action is needed now in all sectors, including the agriculture sector. To meet the 2°C goal of the Paris Agreement, researchers estimate that agriculture emissions must be reduced by 1 gigatonne carbon dioxide equivalent per year by 2030. Current interventions can only contribute 21-40% of this goal.

We cannot afford to rest on the success of Paris. Climate negotiators in Marrakech must be alert to the urgent need for meaningful action and countries must immediately get to work on implementing the Paris Agreement. A focus on agriculture, with accompanying funds and support, will help the sector transition to support global food security in a sustainable manner. Over 550 million smallholder farmers depend on it.

This post originally appeared on Huffington Post. Featured image photo credit: Neil Palmer CCAFS/CIAT

NOV162016
Global Landscapes Forum: Climate Action for Sustainable Development

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16th November 2016

Marrakech, Morocco

The Global Landscapes Forum: Climate Action for Sustainable Development will bring together 500 select experts and leaders – and thousands more online – in Marrakesh in a thematic, focused event to act against climate change. Among the speakers confirmed is Erik SolheimUNEP Executive Director. Read more >>

NOV72016
COP22: UN Climate Change Conference 2016

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7th-18th November 2016

Marrakech, Morocco

The Conference of the Parties (“COP”) is the supreme decision-making body of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This year’s COP summit will take place as the Paris Agreement on climate change comes into force with sessions also focusing on agriculture and food security in Africa. Read more >>