Report: Climate stress will defeat African development without major investment

Major gaps in investment in climate adaptation and mitigation strategies for smallholder farmers in Africa will hold back development in the region, says a new report released today by the Montpellier Panel of experts in agriculture and development.

The report, The Farms of Change: African Smallholders Responding to an Uncertain Climate Future cites insufficient finance as one of the main constraints to implementing climate change adaptation and mitigation projects in Africa. Between 2010 and 2050, the annual cost for adaptation to climate change in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) will be at least US$18 billion and up to US$50 billion for the entire continent.

Yet the level of financing currently reaching African countries is paltry, according to the report. Of the US$34 billion pledged through various climate funds, SSA received just US$2.3 billion between 2003 and 2013, of which only 45% was allocated to adaptation projects. Currently, Nigeria and South Africa are the only countries that have received support for developing solar and wind power through the Clean Technology Fund (CTF).

The report calls for donors and government to boost investment, to avoid problems that would have catastrophic results on African development, such as: major food shortages; increased child malnutrition; unplanned migration: Globally, at least 32 million people were displaced by climate-related sudden-onset disasters in 2012 alone. This often leads to conflict, and further environmental degradation; food price hikes; and exacerbated poverty.

The report advocates for this funding gap to be met through public and private resources, but allowing local governments to allocate funds according to need. The report analyses the finance options currently available to smallholders from multilateral funding mechanisms, as well as schemes such as carbon markets.

As the United Nations climate talks in Paris edge closer, and more developed countries reveal their pledges to combatting climate change, the report outlines the importance of making sufficient finance available to African countries for coping with climate change. “Progress made in the last two decades to combat hunger and poverty in Africa will be irrelevant if action is not taken on climate change,” comments Professor Sir Gordon Conway, director of the London-based group Agriculture for Impact that convenes the Montpellier Panel.

“African smallholders cannot escape poverty unless they are equipped to adapt to a changing climate, and this requires serious, large-scale investments,” he adds.

The report advocates for the wide adoption of Sustainable Intensification (SI), that seeks to produce more food whilst ensuring the natural resource base on which agriculture depends is sustained. This can include, for example, nitrogen-fixing crops that improve soil quality or the introduction of drought-tolerant maize varieties.

The report notes that some interventions will require investment by the private sector, such as for the construction of large- and small-scale irrigation systems. At the same time, it argues that smallholder farmers can also be agents of change, and contribute to lower global carbon emissions that cause climate change.

“When given the right options and incentives, farmers can drive sustainable agricultural development that build resilience to disasters and reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions,” says Dr Ousmane Badiane, Africa director of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI),

“Climate change is a business opportunity for new technologies and job creation in climate sensitive sectors, not only in agriculture, but also in water and energy.” adds Dr Camilla Toulmin, former director of the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and Montpellier Panel co-chair.


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