The importance of agriculture to economic growth and rural livelihoods, its vulnerability to climate change implies that building resilience to climate change in Southern Africa must be of primary importance. In this regard comprehensive agricultural adaptation and mitigation strategies to meet the food and income needs of current and future generations have to be implemented. The Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) Program of the CGIAR, in partnership with COMESA and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) is committed to working with countries in Southern Africa and other stakeholders with a view to developing a common position on issues related to agriculture for SBSTA consideration. This will ensure that priority areas for the region would be reflected in the ongoing international climate change negotiations.
African smallholder farmers are in the eye of the climate change storm. Increased flooding and droughts have seen crop yields diminish as many farmers struggle to support their own livelihoods. With over 70 percent of the continent’s populations dependent on agriculture, this is a problem which cannot be ignored. While Africa contributes less than 3 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, it stands on the frontline of the economic and social consequences of climate change.
At his keynote presentation on Saturday 3rd December at the third Agriculture and Rural Development Day (ARDD), President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Kanayo F. Nwanze urged that “negotiators must recognize the critical importance of enabling smallholder farmers to become more resilient to climate change and to grow more food in environmentally sustainable, climate-smart ways.”
Later in the day, Dr Lindiwe Majele Sibanda opened up a side event on behalf of the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) which focused on how we can build the resilience of African smallholder farmers in a changing climate. The event highlighted the work of smallholder farmers in Swaziland and how they are coping with the impacts of climate change.
Back in 2002, Swaziland was hit hard by drought. Many smallholder farmers in the region saw their crops destroyed and their livelihoods threatened due to changing weather conditions. Happy Shongwe, a mother of two from Maphumulo in the Lubombo district of Swaziland, was on-site at the event to discuss her experiences as a smallholder farmer who watched her food reserves run dry due to the drought and was left impoverished. Shongwe and others in her community were helped with food vouchers and knowledge on how they could best respond to the drought.
Shongwe realised that planting maize and raising broiler chickens were not viable ways of coping with a changing climate and instead she began planting legumes which proved to be drought resistant. Starting with just one hectare of land, she quickly increased yields and was able to plant three hectares the following season.
Since then, her fate has changed. Shongwe has since registered Hlelile Investments (Pty) Ltd, a company that produces and markets seeds and is now a certified seed producer through the Seed Quality Division of the Ministry of Agriculture. “I now have my own business and have been able to afford to buy a tractor – I have come along way over the past ten years”, said Shongwe at the event.
Sibanda highlighted the importance of labelling and certification from the government:
For a region to be food secure, it needs to be seed secure. We believe in our own farmers; if given the necessary knowledge, they can grow more food. However, there is still a great need for research, technology and to mobilise funding for smallholder farmers in Swaziland, and other regions across Africa.
Measuring the vulnerability of rural households to external shocks
Today, few tools exist that can effectively measure the impact of shocks and stressess on the lives of the poor. By intermittently measuring the livelihood assets owned by a household over a period of time, researchers can determine household vulnerability and provide evidence to inform investment decisions around the design of policy responses and programme interventions aimed at strengthening household resilience.
Along with World Vision, FANRPAN has developed the Household Vulnerability Index (HVI) to measure the vulnerability of rural households to external shocks such as disease outbreaks, extreme weather and other stresses such as food insecurity. Through this approach, households are categorized into three levels of vulnerability, namely low, moderate and high vulnerability. Based on this more targeted classification system, development response packages are formulated to assist the most vulnerable households at the root causes of their vulnerability.
Following the successful piloting of the HVI tool in three countries in Southern Africa (Lesotho, Swaziland and Zimbabwe), FANRPAN and World Vision have shared their perspectives on the importance on developing and updating livelihood databases to benchmark livelihoods and provide data for modelling projected changes in livelihoods as a result of climate change.
Speaking at the learning event, Dalton Nxumalo, a Knowledge Management Officer with World Vision Swaziland (who provide funding for the project) noted,
This tool is meant to be a community based tool. The HVI assesses a household’s access to five livelihood assets; natural; physical; financial; human; and social assets and a total of 15 variables are then assessed together and a statistical core is calculated for each household.
Farming First, alongside leading agriculture bodies including the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, the UN World Food Programme, the World Bank and the World Farmer’s Organisation, has endorsed the following open letter as a call to action to COP17 negotiators in Durban.
Our world faces formidable challenges. The global population has now crossed the seven billion mark and is projected to reach nine billion by mid-century, requiring at least a 70 percent increase in agricultural production to meet increased demand.
The world’s resources are under more strain than ever before as global demand for water, energy and food is on the rise. At the same time, climate change threatens farmers’ ability to produce enough to meet growing demand, and poor communities’ ability to access nutritious food.
More frequent and extreme weather events are affecting our food supply, our infrastructure and our livelihoods. Last year, Russia suffered its worst drought in more than 100 years, triggering forest fires and destroying millions of hectares of crops. This year we have seen the Horn of Africa face its worst drought in 60 years as more than 13 million people requiring emergency food aid and pastoralists losing a third of their livestock. Recent flooding in Thailand, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Cambodia has also impacted livelihoods and worsened food insecurity.
The most vulnerable regions of the world – developing countries – are disproportionately affected by climate change, despite contributing little to carbon emissions. People in developing countries depend heavily on agriculture for their livelihoods, yet are increasingly challenged in their ability to produce sufficient food for their families and for markets.
Whilst agriculture is a contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, it has significant potential to be part of the solution to climate change.
Preserving and enhancing food security requires increasing agricultural productivity whilst at the time adapting to and mitigating climate change. It also requires a shift towards building farmers’ and vulnerable communities’ resilience to climate shocks, and related food price volatility.
More productive, sustainable and resilient agriculture requires transformations in how rural people manage natural resources and how efficiently they use these resources as inputs for crop production. For these transformations to occur, it is essential that the world’s farmers, scientists, researchers, the private sector, development practitioners and food consumers come together to achieve climate-smart agriculture.
Yet the agricultural sector remains astonishingly underfunded. As a percentage of total investment, agriculture has dropped from 22 percent in 1980 to approximately 6 percent today. In absolute terms, this constitutes a drop to roughly half of the funding allocated thirty years ago.
At the upcoming climate change negotiations in Durban, we call on negotiators to recognise the important role of agriculture in addressing climate change so that a new era of agricultural innovation and knowledge sharing can be achieved. Specifically, we ask that they approve a Work Programme for agriculture under the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) so that the sector can take early action to determine the long-term investments needed to transform agriculture to meet future challenges.
You can see the full list of signatories on the Agriculture and Rural Development Day website.
The New Agriculturalist website has published a points of view article focusing on Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA). Farming First were questioned on CSA, alongside organisations such as the CGIAR, FAO, World Bank, Agriculture for Impact and the Future Agricultures Consortium.
Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) can be defined as:
“…agriculture that sustainably increases productivity, resilience (adaptation), reduces/removes greenhouse gases (mitigation), and enhances achievement of national food security and development goals.” (FAO)
As the world leaders prepare for the COP17 which will be held in Durban in December – the first time the COP will be held in Africa – there is a need for increased recognition that sustainable agriculture can be a solution to climate change.
What is Climate Smart Agriculture?
As agriculture accounts for 70 percent of water use globally, is a major user of fossil fuels and accounts for 17-30 percent of global greenhouse gases, CSA has tended to be seen as part of the problem of climate change rather than part of the solution. CSA seeks to reverse this pattern and position agriculture as vital in mitigating and adapting to climate change.
New Agriculturalist asked the Farming First coalition how CSA worked. We answered:
“By promoting agricultural best practices, particularly Integrated Crop Management, conservation agriculture, intercropping, improved seeds and fertilizer management practices, as well as supporting increased investment in agricultural research, CSA encourages the use of all available and applicable climate change solutions in a pragmatic and impact-focused manner. Resilience will be key, but ‘climate smart’ is broader and underscores the need for innovation and proactive changes in the way farming is done to not only adapt but also mitigate and increase productivity sustainably.”
Is Climate Smart Agriculture of global importance?
The emphasis on CSA varies according to the level of agricultural development in different countries. For example, developing countries might focus on adapting their agricultural systems to meet the challenges posed by changing climate conditions, whereas developed countries may focus on reducing energy inputs and emissions, or look at carbon trading.
The Farming First coalition said:
“With a predicted 9 billion people by 2050, agricultural production will need to increase by 70 per cent to meet new demands for food, feed, fuel and fibre. As agriculture accounts for up to 30 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, it’s crucial that Climate Smart Agriculture is developed to achieve future food security and climate change goals.”
Alberto Sandoval from the FAO said:
“CSA is about increasing productivity and income in a changing environment… It’s an opportunity to improve livelihoods while enhancing all types of agriculture in different countries all over the world.”
What is new?
Given the current insecurity around climate change and the need to feed an ever-growing population in a sustainable manner, CSA means having to adapt from ‘traditional’ agricultural practices.
Ademola Braimoh from the World Bank said:
“There is a great value addition in integrating adaptation and mitigation because both share the ultimate goal of reducing the undesirable impacts of climate on human livelihoods.”
Alberto Sandoval from the FAO said:
“CSA practices propose a transformation of agriculture, in the way we grow food and treat the environment in a changing climate. It outlines ways to preserve and enhance food security by changing policy and agricultural production systems.”
Will Climate Smart Agriculture be of interest to farmers?
For CSA practices to work, they need buy in from farmers around the globe.
Sir Gordon Conway from Agriculture for Impact said:
“Climate Smart Agriculture will only be attractive to farmers if its adoption is incentivised either in terms of high-level financial incentives or in terms of significant gains in productivity.”
George Jacob from Self Help Africa said:
“Smallholder farmers cannot invest heavily in their land, but new methods of farming which are low-input, and yet which result in increased outputs, are particularly attractive.”
Climate Smart Agriculture – who pays?
The Farming First coalition said:
“Ultimately climate smart pays for itself. The benefits in terms of food security and sustainability are far greater than the cost of supporting farmers, or the costs of inaction, in terms of human, social and environmental as well as financial costs.”
Bruce Campbell from the CGIAR said:
“In a developing country context, major public investment may be needed to kick start some CSA technologies and practices. If farmers are going to incur costs in putting carbon into the soil, those costs will need to be recouped somehow.”
Scaling up Climate Smart Agriculture
In terms of scaling up CSA, the Farming First coalition believe immediate priorities should include:
– The realisation of the G8 funding commitments made in L’Aquila;
– National government commitment to earmark specific funding to re-establish and improve extension services;
– Strong and global commitment to supporting public-private partnerships as a means to advance research and the adoption of new practices and technologies;
– Specific commitments to research funding in key crops and on key issues, such as water use.
To read the full article on New Agriculturalist, please see:
To read more about how the Farming First principles can be applied to climate change, please visit:
To read more about Farming First’s view on building a global green economy and to watch our animated video, please visit: