COP22: Spotlight on agriculture, Africa and action

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      On Monday, the UN climate change conference COP22 kicked off in Marrakech. Last year’s COP21, held in Paris, was lauded as a historic success, resulting in all nations, including the largest polluters and the most vulnerable island states, to sign the Paris Agreement. However, there were many unanswered questions, keeping even the most optimistic observers and participants from getting carried away. To give an example, the Paris Conference did not clearly lay out how smallholder farmers are able to access adaptation finance. While COP21 was successful in reaching agreement on paper, COP22 is expected to focus on real and ambitious action: this is necessary, because the recent UNEP Emissions Gap Report 2016 states that the current promises made by governments in the Paris Agreement, could still lead to global warming between 2.9 until 3.4 °C degrees by 2100, heavily exceeding the 1.5 or 2 °C degrees target. During COP21, a full day was dedicated to agriculture, which was unprecedented. COP22 is paying even more attention to agriculture. One of the reasons is, that the vast majority of countries prioritised agriculture as a sector for adaptation and mitigation in their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) or post-2020 climate action plans. My hopes for a strong focus on African agriculture were raised even more during the recent 2nd Annual Forum of the African Climate-Smart Agriculture Alliance (ACSAA), held last month in Nairobi, Kenya. Hanne Knaepen on COP22 and Climate-Smart Agriculture, 10 November 2016

      If the Vision 25x25 fails, the whole continent fails

      The ACSAA meeting was convened by NEPAD and all the discussions revolved around the theme From Agreement to Action: Implementing African INDCs for Growth and Resilience in Agriculture, a topic chosen smartly ahead of COP22. I was there to give a presentation on “Scaling-up on-the-ground implementation of CSA in Africa” and to learn more about the latest progress of CSA, a topic that ECDPM has increasingly been working on. The African Union’s goal is to have 25 million smallholder households practicing CSA by the year 2025 (Vision 25x25), to be implemented by ACSAA under the lead of NEPAD that aims to align CSA policies across the continent. This is an ambitious goal to say the least. Martin Bwalya, NEPAD Senior Advisor for Programme Development, announced that “the Agenda 25x25 is too big to fail. If it fails, the whole continent will fail.”¹ I learned a lot about promising policy initiatives that are paving the way towards reaching Vision 25x25. To give an example, in Kenya, every ministry now has a climate change desk and this work will trickle down to the country’s county levels to have real impact. The Paris Agreement has put emphasis on the role that agriculture and land-use plays in tackling the climate change challenge, according to an FAO presentation. Visit of climate-smart farm at Kasarani on the outskirts in Nairobi, 13 October 2016 (photo credit: Hanne Knaepen)

      Missing opportunities

      However, if Africa wants to achieve the ambitious Vision 25x25, it needs to speed up action and certain weaknesses will have to be overcome. Estherine Fotabong, NEPAD Director of Programmes Implementation and Communication, expressed her regret about “the slow uptake of CSA practices due to the lack of land ownership for women and the lack of access to technologies”.² By now, 17 African countries have ratified the Paris Agreement, turning their INDCs into Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). However, some of the big players like Ethiopia, often called “the poster child for green growth”, have not yet ratified the Agreement. What was missing mostly during the entire meeting, was a presentation of concrete achievements: what are lessons learned at the community level? How has climate information reached farmers in remote areas? What are incentives for farmers to adapt to climate change and build resilience? How to make input subsidies more climate-smart? Similar to Francesco Rampa’s critical assessment of the recent meeting of the Global CSA Alliance, I also identified a lack of inclusivity at the ACSAA meeting. The majority of participants were from Ministries of Environment and Agriculture, not even Finance or Planning. Moreover, the private sector was under-represented, despite their indispensable role in making CSA investments. In addition, it has proven to be challenging for high-level frameworks, such as CAADP, to have an impact on the ground, where complex realities make implementation difficult. The ACSAA faces similar challenges. Therefore, concrete, climate-compatible pathways for CSA per country, adapted to local circumstances, should be developed as soon as possible in order to overcome the political challenges of implementing CSA .

      Let’s talk action

      The ACSAA has potential, but what it needs is a strong action plan, spelling out governance systems that can work, with a strong focus on inclusivity towards the private sector, gender and youth. The ACSAA should also bring in stronger scientific evidence, provide country case studies, work towards a repository of best CSA practices for the entire continent: for instance, what has worked in Zambia can be a solution for farmers in Cameroon. Therefore, knowledge should be shared and practices should be replicated across the continent through this repository. Finally, the ACSAA should explain how climate financing will reach the smallholder farmers. Importantly, the 2-day conference ended with a discussion on next steps and gaps, referring to some of these proposals. At COP22, African Ministers of Agriculture, representatives from NGOs and other stakeholders will launch the “Triple AAA” initiative, looking at Adaptation, Africa and Agriculture to draw attention to African agriculture during the climate talks. In order to bring these three A’s closer together, I suggest 3 promising pathways to be taken into consideration at COP22:
      1. Bring in political economy lessons into the negotiations to optimise the chances for implementation (and thereby moving away from a purely technical discussion);
      2. Better link agricultural adaptation to the finance mechanisms, such as the Green Climate Fund, and provide clear pathways on how farmers will have access to these funds;
      3. Assess the efficiency of CSA interventions so far and bring together best practices that can be replicated and implemented more widely in various regions in Africa.
      ¹ Martin Bwalya, Head of CAADP in the NEPAD Agency, statement made at 2nd Annual Forum of African CSA Alliance, 12 October 2016, Safari Park Hotel, Nairobi, Kenya. ² Estherine Fotabong, NEPAD Director of Programmes Implementation and Communication, statement made at 2nd Annual Forum of African CSA Alliance, 11 October 2016, Safari Park Hotel, Nairobi, Kenya. The views expressed here are those of the authors and not necessarily those of ECDPM.
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