By Francis Kokutse, in Accra, Ghana
Francis Kokutse is a journalist based in Accra and writes for Associated Press (AP), University World News, as well as Science and Development.Net. He was a Staff Writer of African Concord and Africa Economic Digest in London, UK.
This can only be good news for the continent’s Climate Change efforts as the African Union (AU) rolls out the African Union Climate Change and Resilient Development Strategy and Action Plan (AUCC) covering 2022-2032. No wonder, Jennifer Baarn, director, Africa Green Revolution Forum (AGRF), which is part of the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), is impressed with the strategy and has described the document as “realistic,” because it can help the continent in its fight to achieve food security.
Baarn is very optimistic that Africa can use the AUCC to improve agriculture which “is one of the largest contributors to climate change on the planet, accounting for about 30% of the world’s carbon emissions”. She adds that, “given that food security and climate change are the two major development challenges of our time, Africa needs a coordinated action plan to fast-track efforts by stakeholders in mobilising resources and to enhance cooperation towards long-term climate resilience.”
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The AUCC Strategy was developed as a 10-year strategic planning document aimed at addressing the impacts and encumbrances of climate change which hamper Africa’s integration and development. It is part of a proactive, collective effort to realise Agenda 2063, which is the continent’s blueprint and master plan for transforming Africa into the global powerhouse of the future.
Agenda 2063 is the strategic framework which aims to deliver on the goal for inclusive and sustainable development and is a concrete manifestation of the pan-African drive for unity, self-determination, freedom, progress, and collective prosperity pursued under Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance.
The authors of the AUCC said: “Despite Africa having contributed less than 4% of global greenhouse gas (ghg) emissions, it is one of the regions that is most vulnerable to climate change”. They said the strategy aims to improve human well-being and economic growth over the long term, while mitigating the exposure to significant environmental risks and ecological scarcities for future generations.
It defines the main priorities, interventions and actions required to build resilient capacities for adaptation, reduce the vulnerability of affected communities and manage the risks related to climate change and climate-induced extreme events, as well as unlock the benefits of the mitigation potential of the continent.
In addition, there is the Africa Blue Economy Strategy addressing concepts such as blue carbon, blue energy, climate-resilient coastal infrastructure, and responses to improve the climate resilience of Africa’s fisheries and aquaculture sectors.
The plan will also help to address the capacity needs and gaps for climate research, which the Alliance for Accelerating Excellence in Science in Africa (AESA), Climate Research for Development (CR4D) and Future Climate for Africa (FCFA) initiatives, currently supporting climate science research, are tackling.
Baarn said delegates at COP 27 recognised the impact of climate change on food systems and underlined the need to employ both mitigation and adaptation strategies to change weather systems already affecting the continent.
She recalled that, at the AGRF 2022 summit held in Rwanda, leaders acknowledged the need to have coordinated efforts toward climate action. “African countries, working with the African Union, committed to developing a common voice to articulate the continent’s agenda and priorities. This is critical as Africa contributes just 3% to global emissions but is greatly affected and least equipped to manage the changes required to adapt,” she said.
“This strategy is critical as a roadmap for harmonised and coordinated action to respond to the impact of climate change and support planning for Africa’s low-emission future,” Baarn said, and does not see this document remaining on the shelves as in the past, “because the strategy defines the parameter and priorities in which the continent can coordinate and align in its climate response and by extension food security.”
“However, to move off the shelves into action we must recognise the complexities of the ecosystem and encourage collaboration, as governments, the private sector, development partners, and consumers, to deliver more inclusive and resilient food systems,” she added.
In addition, Baarn said, “there must be inclusion and ownership of climate strategies, policies, programmes, and plans across all spheres of government and stakeholder groupings.
Responding to fears that drought and flooding are likely to distort agriculture on the continent, she admitted that the impact of changing weather patterns is already taking its toll on agriculture on the continent and time is running out for the sector to adapt to the changing environment while meeting climate goals and reducing emissions.
“To achieve resilience and sustainable growth, sub-Saharan Africa must shift towards sustainable and diverse yield-driven growth, focused on raising farm productivity on existing farmland,” she said.
The solutions must be bottom-up, to ensure strategies employed and support mechanisms that are appropriate and effective, Baarn noted.
Amongst other things, Africa must address soil health through proper management and deployment of fertilizer, which “is essential to building sustainable systems, complemented by appropriate technology that is made accessible to farmers in terms of both internet availability and products geared to this segment of the value chain,” she said.
In addition, agri-food Small and Medium Enterprises must be enabled to access finance, technologies, together with expanded markets, capitalizing on AfCFTA (African Continental Free Trade Agreement).
In her view, African governments must increase public investments in agricultural systems and adapt laws and regulations to attract and sustain private investments in impactful areas, such as investment in research and development and reducing cost of trade.
In the area of mitigation and resilience, Baarn said the continent must start by first recognizing that a lot is being done – the launch of the Climate Change and Resilient Development Strategy and Action Plan is evidence of the recognition that climate change is real and that the continent is committed to working together to adopt and potentially reverse the effects of climate change.
“However, to move further faster, we need to adopt a food systems approach and relook at the way food is produced, processed, marketed, and consumed in the continent. The continent has a food import bill of about $50 billion a year despite having the largest tracts of arable land globally,” Baarn said.
She said Africa’s ability to build resilient and sustainable markets within Africa requires a range of interrelated actions, and these must include addressing inefficiencies in the value chain that make it costly to produce and distribute both raw and processed food products.
There is also the need to build resilience at the base of the pyramid among smallholder farmers – the backbone of farming in Africa – and also the most at-risk communities. This means that smallholder farmers must be supported to become more resilient, and their production able to withstand seasonal shocks. Smart-farming methods need to be encouraged and funded while land tenure systems need to be simplified and efficiently managed.
Baarn said there is an additional need to look at a multi-stakeholder approach to financing because African agriculture is regarded as high risk by investors and financiers due largely to the informal nature of farming, poor policies, lack of mechanization and technology and small land sizes on the continent.
Whether or not the much-touted strategy will work to redeem Africa or not, how it is implemented will determine the outcome. The authors of the plan have however given the assurances that a detailed monitoring and evaluation plan will be used to track schedules, timelines, key performance indicators, data collection/management, data analysis, verification and quality assurance, feedback mechanisms and stakeholder contributions.”
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