South Africa: African Farmers Told To Take Advantage of Opportunities That Come With Climate Change

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George Mhango
November 13, 2014

As most African economies continue to depend on agriculture, the need to adopt climate smart agriculture remained a major debate at the 10th CAADP Africa Forum in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The debate emanated from clear examples that countries such as Malawi, Burundi, Rwanda, Zambia, Mozambique and Swaziland are dependent on agriculture and if nothing is done by governments, farmers and policy makers their economies will disintegrate.

Tea plantation in Chepsir village southwestern Mau block in Kenya
Tea plantation in Chepsir village southwestern Mau block in Kenya

The forum held under the theme Family Farming—has been organised by NEPAD through Comprehensive Africa Agriculture development Programme (CAADP) and Southern Africa Confederation of Agricultural Unions (SACAU).

Among various key issues at the meeting was the need for farmers to champion Climate Smart-Agriculture (CSA) to maximise agricultural production to feed their families.

According to Ousmane Djibo from GIZ, young farmers should be involved right from their primary school ages where adults can learn from since the climate smart agriculture is about future generations.

He said introduction of such lessons could ensure that children become proud and confident about being agricultural experts, inspiring them to enter into agriculture.

Djibo added that CSA policies and strategies need to be tailored to regional realities considering that the impact of climate change differs from region to region.

“Some regions in Africa will actually benefit by having a longer growing season or more rain. We farmers need to be involved also in the development of policies,” said Djibo.

President of SACAU Theo De Jager said it was sad that farmers who constitute 80 percent of the continents population earn their living with their fingers in the soil due to lack of alternatives that would boost agricultural production to feed the continent.

“Agriculture is the main driver of the economy of this continent. This is why we are meeting as SACAU and other partners such as CAADP and regional farmer organisations to discuss how to improve agricultural production,” he said.

He said farmers in this generation, than before, face climate change effects which call for concerted efforts in a bid to deal with the vice to maximise production.

De Jager singled out the fact that young farmers need to be well sensitised to understand the changing times so they think of how to handle farming to protect the future generation.

“We can list a number of scientific evidence that shows that climate is rapidly changing but for a farmer you don’t need to present that because farmers know that and they feel it. You see, there is no other fraternity that is more vulnerable to climate change than farmers. We have to know, therefore, that we are key players of what needs to happen to deal with the vice,” he said.

De Jager asked young farmers not to be threatened by climate change, but rather see it as a wonderful opportunity by changing policies to do with markets and trade likely to be a threat in three years.

Africa represents only a small fraction, 3.6%, out of the total carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions per year
Africa represents only a small fraction, 3.6%, out of the total carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions per year

Research by NEPAD through CAADP shows that climate change effects are becoming more frequent and more severe, threatening the reliability and productivity of agriculture, exacerbating already extreme levels of poverty, and reinforcing persistent inequity and chronic under-nutrition.

It has however, said the challenge can be avoided through widespread adoption of more resilient, productive, sustainable, equitable and increasingly efficient farming practices in line with CAADP’s initiative on Climate-Smart-Agriculture.

This is why at the forum; NEPAD programmes director Mrs Estherine Fotabong reiterated the need for farmers to input issues of climate smart agriculture and other pertinent issues on the Malabo Declaration up for scrutiny this Wednesday.

According to Fotabong, the declaration, which is an implementation strategy and roadmap, will be submitted to African Heads of State and Governments during the 2015 African Union Summit in January.

“We want reaffirmation from leaders on ending hunger and poverty by 2025 and also to enhance resilience and livelihood and productive systems to climate vulnerability and other shocks hence the plea to add value to the declaration before taking to the African leaders,” she said.

Justus Mochache Monda from Kenya Farmers Federation in his presentation titled mobilising farmers for market access said developing countries will continue to rely heavily on the agricultural sector hence the need to promote climate smart agriculture and family farming.

“Farmers, especially smallholder farmers remain the drivers of many economies in Africa even though their potential is often not brought forward. The sector is the key to food security, poverty reduction, and employment creation as well as meet climate change challenges,” he said.

As the forum ends delegates have maintained that farmer organisation is an essential ingredient of success in climate smart agriculture. This according to many participants at the forum signifies a point that crop production which depends on water through minimum tillage systems, evergreen agriculture and agroforestry systems, are key elements of the portfolio of CSA solutions.

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