Climate Smart Agriculture Highlighted At COP17 Talks

One in seven of the world’s people does not have enough to eat and climate change will only worsen the situation, warned Kofi Annan at the COP17 climate talks in  Durban on Wednesday.  The former UN Secretary General pointed to ‘Climate Smart Agriculture' as a way for Africa to contribute to climate change mitigation efforts and boost food security.

DURBAN -- One in seven of the world’s people does not have enough to eat and climate change will only worsen the situation, warned Kofi Annan at a COP17 event calling for an urgent focus on innovative approaches to agriculture that can boost food security, increase resilience among vulnerable rural communities and mitigate climate change.

The event, entitled ‘Climate Smart Agriculture – Africa: A Call to Action’ at COP17 in Durban, was hosted by the World Bank (WB) together with the African Union (AU) and South Africa. WFP, along with sister agencies FAO and IFAD and others, is supporting the CSA Partnership.

In his address, the former UN Secretary General said that agriculture had been sidelined from the climate change debate for too long. “Climate change could reduce global food production by 20 per cent by 2050,” he said. “Yet the world’s population is set to reach nine billion in that year and food production needs to increase”.

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Here are two key docs on Climate Smart Agriculture:

>>Policy brief on the opportunities and challenges for climate-smart agriculture in Africa (8 pages)
>>Beginner's guide to climate-smart agriculture (26 pages)

He said that while four out of five people in Africa are dependent on agriculture, it is the only continent not able to grow enough to feed itself. “Climate smart agriculture will enable Africa to contribute to climate change mitigation efforts”, he said. “We must accept the responsibility to do what we can”.

Climate Smart Agriculture, known by its acronym CSA, includes a wide variety of techniques including terracing to prevent soil erosion, improving soil under cultivation, manager water runoff and developing irrigation systems. These practices, which WFP and its partners actively promote, increase the resilience of communities to climate change and help protect them from extreme weather events.

“Seventy per cent of Africans are small-scale farmers”, said Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. “Agriculture is the key to our future. There is no better way to way to fight poverty and ensure food security”. He advocated the approach which his country had adopted: massive reforestation, widespread irrigation, and soil and water conservation.

Jean Ping, Chairman of the AU, said that what is being done in Ethiopia could be done across the continent though there needed to be more discussion of the threat of desertification.

Sri Mulyani Indrawati, Managing Director of the WB, urged action to promote CSA by scaling up best practices and clarifying policy options. “With over 70 per cent of its population involved in farming, the challenge for Africa is staggering”, she said. “Improving the continent’s agricultural performance is the most powerful tool we have to reduce poverty and hunger”.

President Jacob Zuma of South Africa said that while Africa risked being badly affected by climate change, with agriculture being particularly vulnerable, there were proven techniques for fighting it. “We need to link climate change, food security and poverty”, he said. “They should not be considered separately”. Pointing out that COP17 represented “a unique opportunity for Africa”, he said that CSA provides for an environmentally sound and affordable way for small-holders to intensify production while increasing market opportunities.

Among the panelists who took the floor after the keynote addresses was Mary Robinson, President of the Mary Robinson Foundation for Climate Justice. A former president of Ireland and onetime UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, she suggested that while women are frequently victims in the agricultural sector and seldom own the land they work, they can be real agents for change. “Women make the connection between climate smart agriculture, food security and gender”, she said.

 WFP Deputy Executive Director, Sheila Sisulu (see picture right), urged the audience to remember one thing: 5 millimetres. “There are smart ways we can work with people to feed themselves in a way that is sustainable and that also protects their land”, she said. “Save five millimeters of top soil, that’s all that’s asked from us to promote climate smart agriculture”.

The event was brought to a close by the South African Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Tina Joemat-Pettersson, who said it was time to come up with an action plan for CSA. We have done the talking, she concluded, now we need to do the work.

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