on 1st October 2015

An African agenda for climate smart agriculture

The Africa Climate Smart Agriculture Alliance (ACSAA) has come a long way since it was launched by the African Union’s New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) in June 2014. The Alliance aims to empower six million smallholder farmers across sub-Saharan Africa in the next five years by promoting the uptake of climate smart agriculture in the region. CARE is a member of ACSAA and works together with the Alliance to support poor farming families to able to put nutritious food on their tables even in the face of a changing climate.

Last week, on the sidelines of the UN Sustainable Development Summit in New York, ACSAA organised a side event – Transforming our world: The 2030 agenda for sustainable development and the importance of climate smart agriculture to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in Africa – to discuss the future of climate smart agriculture in Africa. Action-oriented learning and the empowerment of rural communities, with focus on equity and gender equality, were identified as the keys to promoting bottom-up drivers of policy change, as African farmers grapple with the strongly felt impacts of climate change and changing weather patterns on its agricultural and livestock systems.

But changes don’t come without challenges. As panellists noted, climate smart agriculture approaches need to make sense to farmers, both in terms of productivity and profitability. If we are to be a force for change – fundamentally focused on enhancing the food security and resilience of smallholder farming families – we need to keep grasping the thorny issues. This includes challenging the perception that climate-smart agriculture may not be the right approach. There are certainly many important debates to be had about the roles and accountabilities of the different actors involved, as there are about the mix of technologies and approaches. These challenges can only be addressed by confronting them through partnerships and inclusive action.

It was heartening to hear all speakers at the ACSAA side event talk not only about the importance of equity and inclusion, but also about the imperative to address the environmental and ecosystems challenges that human agricultural activity poses, and to push for a more sustainable and just food and agriculture system. This imperative lies at the very core of the Sustainable Development Goal 2 – End hunger, achieve food security and improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture. Key targets for this goal – to double the agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers in particular women and other marginalised groups; to maintain the genetic diversity of seeds, cultivated plants and animals; and to increase investment in rural infrastructure, agricultural research and extension services etc – are high on the agenda for the ACSAA.

CARE has been engaging in debates on smallholder agriculture in a changing climate through the lens of CARE’s SuPER approach (sustainability, productivity (including profitability), equity and resilience). It is clear that efforts to increase productivity of agriculture must simultaneously improve adaptive capacity and resilience, as well as mitigate climate change (where appropriate). Nevertheless, the neglect of equity and inclusion, and of environmental integrity as primary outcomes of any climate smart agriculture endeavour, continue to represent a major weakness of many approaches. This is why CARE will continue to bring its evidence and learning, particularly on the areas of empowering women, community based adaptation and climate resilience agriculture practices, to policy and practice discussions with AACSA and other actors in active support of the SDGs.

Dorcas Robinson, Climate Change Resource and Partnerships Coordinator, CARE International

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