Prioritizing needs of African farmers in climate negotiations

Africa is the continent to watch out for when the climate talks peak in Paris later this year.

The 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will fashion out an agreement to drastically reduce carbon emissions in the atmosphere.

There has been a remarkable improvement in Africa’s participation in the international climate negotiations, says George Wamukoya, a member of the African Group of Negotiators (AGN).

Since 2008, the continent has fostered a strong common position which has been articulated and updated at every UNFCCC COP.

Mr. Wamukoya however says the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) is going to be a game changer in informing negotiations for the December 2015 agreement.

“If you look at the origins of INDCs, it was for mitigation purposes and Africa contributes less than 4% of the global emissions so obviously we are not supposed to be focusing on mitigation; our focus is in adaptation and therefore since that is an instrument that is going to be used for countries to demonstrate what they are going to do in order to address climate change, African countries are forced to do that,” he observed.

Gabon is the first country to submit its INDC whilst other African countries are in the process of preparing their INDCs, which they are expected to deliver by the end of September.

The INDCs will form the foundation for climate action post-2020 when the new agreement to be set in Paris comes into effect.

Africa is among the most vulnerable when it comes to the impacts of climate change.

The fifth assessment report of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projects that rising temperatures in many areas in Africa have ramifications for agriculture and farmer livelihoods.

Agriculture and land use are therefore of paramount interest in the negotiations to ensure food security and economic growth of the continent.

Climate-smart agriculture has been identified as offering triple wins for food security, adaptation and mitigation in Africa.

While the UNFCCC can establish the international policy framework on how agriculture is incorporated into future climate agreements, much policy development has to occur in national, regional and continental policy arenas.

Mr. Wamukoya says the INDCs should serve as the platform through which Africa position itself in advancing agriculture and therefore making a statement to the world that agriculture should be included in the 2015 agreement.

“If Africa is serious about agriculture being a priority, then they must demonstrate that by having one of their priority INDCs being agriculture and trying to identify issues that they can do as Africa or as countries and those that require the support from other partners because they are supposed to support our adaptation,” he stated.

Africa is looking at climate adaptation and mitigation as well as means of implementation – technology, capacity building and finance – in seeking climate justice.

The Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme(CAADP), spearheaded by the African Union’s NEPAD Agency, is the key arena for ensuring that climate change is mainstreamed into agricultural development at the national level adaptation plans and mitigation strategies.

The NEPAD has convened the Africa Climate-Smart Agriculture Alliance (ACSAA) with a goal of reaching 25million farm households by 2025.

“If we fail in agriculture, we have failed in all other sectors because Africa is agriculture,” said a participant at the 1st ACSAA Forum in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Climate justice advocate, Robert Chimambo of the Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) says access to renewable energy would be critical to enable smallholder farmers add value at the farm-level for higher income earnings.

He says each country would need to find out the cost-effective ways of delivering energy to smallholder farmers.

“What we need in the context of climate change is resources to roll out small hydropower, solar and other renewable energy to reach the lowest of our farmers and our communities,” he noted.

The CSA Alliance will serve as Africa’s leading platform to catalyze result-oriented and on-the-ground implementation support in response to both the challenges and opportunities that climate change brings.

NEPAD Programmes Director, Estherine Fotabong, has noted that the agriculture-climate change nexus is an economic and development issue.

The AU-NEPAD is working closely with the group of negotiators through the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) process, she said.

There are also collaborations with the regional economic blocs, including ECOWAS and COMESA, to prioritize agriculture in the negotiations.

Mrs. Fatobong has acknowledged “the negotiators come from the Environment Ministries; they are not necessarily agricultural experts and so their appreciation of the details of agricultural issues might not be at its best”.

The NEPAD therefore wants to involve agricultural experts to enrich the deliberations at the 42nd Session of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) in Bonn, where the group of negotiators will be meeting in June.

Africa has already made a submission on climate impacts on agriculture, emphasizing the importance of agriculture to its economy and calls on partners to include it in the agreement.

Climate-smart agriculture, Mrs. Fotabong says, should also involve policies that are “gender appropriate because women are the majority of African smallholder farmers”.

She hopes the ACSAA will serve the purpose of advocating for attention to the agricultural sector.

“Having an Alliance means you have the critical mass that can talk about the issue; that can communicate the importance of ensuring that agriculture is given the kind of prominence that we hope to see under the UNFCCC process,” she said.

The CSA Alliance will need to increase the voice of Africa on the fight for recognition, play advisory role to the negotiation team, lobby and advocate on Africa’s position on agriculture, gender and climate change.

Mr. Wamukoya has welcomed the Alliance as a platform to share information and experiences with the AGN to inform the negotiations.

It is expected that COP 21 Paris will mark a milestone for vulnerable African smallholder farmers to access the needed support to mitigate and adapt to the changing climate.


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