Rescuing Africa’s Agriculture

Addis Ababa, 01 October 2014 (ECA) – Close to 500 policy makers, academics, practitioners and other stakeholders from the agriculture and climate change sectors will gather on 8 October in Marrakesh, Morocco, in a bid to come to the rescue of Africa’s agriculture which, instead of falling victim to climate change, should seize climate change opportunities for a more harmonious development of the continent.  

At the invitation of ClimDev-Africa, the participants of the Fourth Edition of the Climate Change and Development in Africa (CCDAIV) on the theme ‘Africa Can Feed Africa Now : Translating Climate Knowledge into Action’, will reflect primarily on agriculture, as all research point to agriculture as the key engine of economic growth in Africa.   

While contributing to close to 30% of GDP and 50% of total exports, and employing over 70% of the population in most non-oil economies, and despite being one of the key sectors in Africa, agriculture continues to rely heavily on rainfall, and as such, is vulnerable to climate change.

According to various studies, the impacts of climate change are particularly severe in Africa, given the continent’s low adaptive capacity owing to weak institutional, economic and financial capacity. It is therefore crucial to understand the potential impacts of current and future climate change on the African agriculture and to identify ways and means to adapt to and mitigate the adverse effects, in order to enhance agriculture’s performance and sustainability.

In Marrakech, participants will not take stock or delve deeper into the adverse effects of climate change on African agriculture – these issues have been reiterated enough. They have now to take action and provide the continent with a clear roadmap laying out implementation means to ensure that the African agriculture takes advantage of climate opportunities.

To that effect, Dr. Fatima Denton, ClimDev-Africa Coordinator, set the tone by declaring that: ‘Africa has to see how to view climate change not as a challenge, but rather as an opportunity to transform some of its climate-sensitive sectors, such as agriculture, energy and water’. 

‘We have a pool of knowledge and we have to see how we can turn climate change in our favour.  The key is to identify existing opportunities in the various sectors’ she emphasized.

For ClimDev-Africa, which is hosting the event, it is critical to understand the role of ecosystems and nature, and the efficient agricultural water management for improved productivity in agriculture.

To do that, African countries have to formulate and adopt agricultural policies that strengthen agricultural water management while taking into account the needs of ecosystems, to make agriculture more inclusive and resilient to future climate change impacts.

It was recalled that, over the last years, emphasis was rightly placed on improving climate data and information in Africa with the upgrading of climate observation networks, climate data rescue and the consolidation of rare observations through reanalysis and remote sensing.

These refined climate data and information could also be reanalyzed and packaged according to climate science reference standards, knowledge base and tools required for decision-making and that are appropriate to Africa’s climate conditions.

Other ways include the packaging and translation of available climate data into useful information, making them readily available to end-users, and the upgrading of services to significantly reduce risks and uncertainties related to climate change.   

Refined climate information will enhance the management of water resources in agriculture, of seeds and timely harvesting, of storage, of transformation and transport to markets. Climate knowledge base and tools for decision making provide scientific evidence and contribute to policy design and decision making in agriculture and other development sectors. They also offer possible adaptation options and alternative ways of development that are resilient to climate change in Africa, as highlighted by the Conference background documents.

As the year 2014 is dedicated to agriculture, this sub-theme that features as a priority in the Marrakech discussions will assist in assessing the effects of recent climate impact trends on agricultural production in Africa and to promote the use of such information to inform decision makers on investment priorities.

The discussions will promote the best possible use of the opportunities brought about by climate change, in a bid to adapt African agriculture to climate variability and change and to raise the agricultural performance with the ultimate goal of ensuring that Africa feeds itself.

At Marrakech, the possibilities to provide timely climate information to end-users, especially to the local farmer, the ways and means to reduce the current divide between rural and urban areas, the strengthening of links throughout the agricultural value chain and the impact of migration on food production and security will be studied with deftness.

The CCDA, which is convened for the first time outside Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, provides a unique space for stakeholders to come together and discuss the interrelationships between climate change and development, with Africa as the main focus.

The previous edition of CCDA (CCDAIII), which was held in Addis Ababa, in October 2013 on the theme ‘Africa on the Rise: Can the Opportunities from Climate Change Spring the Continent to Transformative Development?’ has highlighted the urgency to mainstream climate change in development policy planning, programming and implementation.

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