Monday, February 10, 2014

Climate Change Will Hit Agriculture Hardest

Climate change will hit agriculture hardest

February 10, 2014
Jeffrey Gogo
Climate Story

AGRICULTURE and climate change in Africa are like the Siamese twins, inseparable.

Whenever the impact of climate change is discussed, its corrosive attack on agriculture and food production systems is always mentioned first.

This is because most African economies are agro-based.

More than 70 percent of the continent’s one billion people, or 700 million people, survive by tilling the land or are indirectly dependant on agriculture.

The sector supports 67 percent of jobs in Africa and accounts for 40 percent of the continent’s foreign currency earnings.

Recurrent disruptions from climate change manifesting through disasters such as droughts or floods can result in widespread famine and hunger, sometimes death.
Agriculture is key to Africa but the sector remains highly vulnerable to changing climatic conditions.

The declaration by the African Union (AU) that 2014 is the year for “Agriculture and Food Security”, is therefore, a crucial policy target in the scope of climate change and Africa’s post-2015 development agenda, when the Millennium Development Goals expire.

The theme rallies towards building strong agricultural systems that reinforce Africa’s food security, even in the face of dangerous climate change, as the continent launches into Agenda 2063, when the AU celebrates 100 years of existence.

It builds on the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme, which compels African governments to commit 10 percent of their budgets to agriculture and help lift production.

The issue of food security has been long-running.

In 2003, the AU also announced the Maputo Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security, which emphasised the revitalisation of Africa’s agricultural systems to avert hunger.

Systems that are resilient to changing climates, that offer improved adaptive capacity to its peoples, that fully and efficiently utilise Africa’s expansive river network, that exploit its indigenous knowledge, among other factors, will ensure the continent does not go hungry.

At least 239 million Africans are believed to be malnourished at present.

The focus should be placed on the continent’s traditional strengths in agriculture and the agrarian rural community, and weaves in the forward looking focus of climate change as a key dimension of sustainable development.

Africa needs new food production models that provide cross-cutting benefits such as climate change mitigation and adaptation, support for farmers, and ecosystem preservation.

The African continent should bring to scale isolated success stories and best practices such as agro-forestry, on-site water conservation and use of native species.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation projects that agriculture output will decline between 30 and 50 percent by 2030 across the globe due to climate change, exposing several African countries to severe food shocks.

The “Agriculture and Food Security” year should lay the foundation for sufficiently absorbing those shocks, as independent Africa journeys into the next 50 years of life, but poverty and hunger still remain major concerns.

The AU Commission chairperson Dr Nkosazana Dhlamini-Zuma expressed this hope when in a futuristic letter to legendary pan-Africanist Dr Kwame Nkrumah she stated that “we refused to bear the brunt of climate change and aggressively moved to promote the green economy and to claim the blue economy as ours.”

Dr Nkosazana Dhlamini-Zuma was speaking during the official opening of the AU General Assembly in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on January 30.

Africa should move to expunge the widespread view more than 300 million of its people will be facing hunger by 2020 through implementing thought-out home-grown strategies that create climate-proof agriculture systems, which ensure the Agenda 2063 goal is realised.

There are sufficient African technocrats capable of designing functional country or region-specific agriculture strategies that limit hunger.

The African Development Bank’s (AfDB) High Level Panel on Fragile States launched its report during the AU Summit, “Ending Conflict and Building Peace in Africa: A Call to Action,” following one year of consultations.

The report recommends:
Launching an effective policy response to disruptive economic, environmental and social changes facing Africa, including on climate change, natural resource governance, poverty and inequalities, urbanisation and youth employment; and creating resilient states and societies through multi-level partnerships and building interlocking institutions.

“There is no inclusive and sustainable way forward for Africa without women, youth and agriculture,” said José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of FAO.

UN Women’s Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, said agriculture offers Africa “an opportunity for economic prosperity, food security, poverty eradication, skills in science and technology and economic empowerment for women and girls.”

Climate change poses the greatest threat to agriculture and food security, especially in poor agriculture-based countries in the sub-Saharan Africa, due to low resiliency.

In sub-Saharan Africa, agriculture is threatened by multiple issues, ranging from population increase to urbanisation and industrialisation, to the sub-division of land and degraded resources.

Scientific reports show that green house gasses will increase the global average temperatures by an unsustainable 4 degrees Celsius by 2100, worsening the frequency and intensity of phenomena such as extreme floods and drought spells, as well as heat waves.

In Zimbabwe, Government is looking at improving food security and nutrition, as highlighted in the new economic plan, the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (Zim-Asset).

But changes in the agriculture landscape have already resulted in massive food shortages, forcing the country to import 150 000 tonnes of grain last year.

Most families and subsistence farmers remain in dire need of food aid.

Even in the face of prudent Zim-Asset, the future of agriculture in Zimbabwe remains uncertain owing to climate change.

By 2030, agriculture output in Zimbabwe is expected to decline by as much as 50 percent due to changing climatic conditions, according to the UN panel on climate change.
Annual mean rainfall is forecast to decline by up to 20 percent in 70 years, hitting agriculture hard, the biggest contributor to Gross Domestic Product and employment, 26 percent and over 60 percent respectively.

The current and future changes in climate call for greater astuteness in development planning to minimise risk and bolster food production and security, within the scope of the new economic blueprint.

Zimbabwe is now a net food importer. The proportion of people living below the Food Poverty Line, the UN’s measure of hunger, increased from 29 percent in 1995 to 58 percent in 2005, worsening to unconfirmed levels by 2008.

God is faithful.

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