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Exploring Climate-Smart Agriculture In Africa


Estherine Lisinge-Fotabong

Estherine Lisinge-Fotabong

The African Union’s New Partnership for Africa Development (NEPAD) is supporting the implementation of Climate- Smart Agriculture in Africa (CSA) through the Agriculture Climate Change Programme and other related initiatives with a goal of attaining 25 million African farmers practicing Climate-Smart Agriculture by 2025. CNBC Africa’s Godfrey Mutizwa spoke to Estherine Lisinge-Fotabong, Director of Programme Implementation and Coordination Directorate of the NEPAD Planning and Coordinating Agency on this initiative.

MUTIZWA: What are you aiming to achieve with climate- smart agriculture?

LISINGE-FOTABONG: We are aiming to support African farmers, to strengthen their capacity and address the impact of climate change. Climate change is a global challenge and from all the reports and research done, there are strong implications that Africa’s agriculture is critically impacted by the effects of climate change. Considering that Agriculture is a critical sector that drives Africa’s economy and statistics show that we have 70 percent of Africa’s population still being hired in the agricultural sector.

MUTIZWA: What initiatives are coming out from the meeting held in Paris on climate change, drought, temperatures in the world, you were saying the climate-smart initiative was a part of it, explain what it means and what difference it will make.

LISINGE-FOTABONG: Paris was a record breaking initiative, in the sense that we have not had a global agreement that was binding and signed by 196 present member states and 187 member states committed to reducing carbon emission, at least a majority of the world now accept the fact that climate-change exists, we are experiencing severe droughts in South Africa and in the western world, we are seeing very severe winters and all these indicate that climate change exists.

MUTIZWA: How does climate- smart agriculture affect Africa?

LISINGE-FOTABONG: Climate-smart agriculture from an African perspective means policies and institutions have to be forward looking. Agricultural policies have to take into account the impact that climate change has in agricultural production so policies need to have incentive measures that support farmers. Our institutions need to be strengthened, we have to be able to use technology to support our farmers, we have to be able to have a broader stage for dialogue where all our stakeholders are involved. African farmers are mostly small holder farmers and most of them are women. Looking at this process, we don’t have farmers particularly women engaged in this policy discussion. When we say climate-smart agriculture, we want the policies, institutions, the processes to be multi-sectoral and to provide the technologies that will help Africa agriculture adapt to climate change.

MUTIZWA: Are there any specific commitments made to advancing those technologies?

LISINGE-FOTABONG: In Paris, one of the important aspects of the negotiation was providing implementation support to developing countries which include financing and technology support. African countries should be able to benefit from appropriate technologies coming from other regions in addition to Africa building their own capacity to innovate and develop technologies.

MUTIZWA: What work is NEPAD putting up in terms of Africa developing their technologies?

LISINGE-FOTABONG: We have supported the negotiations and we got results and also we have been developing programs that work directly to support African countries and Farmers. For instance, we have the climate-change fund; the NEPAD climate change fund has supported 18 countries and supporting governments to put policies in place, working with NGOs and regional committees to bring direct support to farmers. We also have a programme we call the Gender Agricultural Support Programme, it particularly addresses women working in the agricultural sector and working with the government to ensure that these women groups are form in cooperatives so that they can easily have access to training and inputs that can help them in their farming practices.

MUTIZWA: Tell us about the Initiative to try to create 25 million African farmers by 2025 and how will it work?

LISINGE-FOTABONG: For the 2025 initiative, we have gotten into a partnership with five international NGOs that have concrete presence in African countries to help empower these communities through getting technologies, capacity building, helping them understand the use of inputs in terms of the change in climate. This partnership is to promote and support them to get new varieties. We intend to work with member states to coordinate support from different stakeholders either private sector or development partners so that concrete support is going to small holder farmers and by 2025, we should be meeting those numbers.

MUTIZWA: How many countries are involved in this?

LISINGE-FOTABONG: For now, we have worked with COMESA(Common Market for Easter and Southern Africa), ECOWAS(Economic Community of West African States)with a member state of 15 countries and we have had direct support to 18 countries and hope that by the next couple of years, all African Countries will be covered.

MUTIZWA: On the issue of climate change, most of the rivers are half-dried and I believe this has been replicated in other parts of the continent. How badly have we done across Africa?

LISINGE-FOTABONG: I am from Cameroun and we share the Lake Chad with Niger, Chad and Nigeria. Lake Chad is a clear example of Climate change; the water levels have dropped to a non-sustainable level as a result of climate change. We have the Congo basin and there is a lot of illegal logging that is happening in the region as well. As a continent, I think we have a lot to do and we have to put in place measures that ensure that people don’t come in to destroy our environment. We have to recognize that we did well as a continent in terms of participating in the climate negotiations, for once, Africa spoke with one voice; we had a common position that really strengthened Africa’s voice in the negotiations. We need to go into the details of implementing the agreement and strengthen our institutions.

MUTIZWA: Would you say that at the continental level that awareness is receiving the attention and resources that it demands.

LISINGE-FOTABONG: The attention is there because the head of states, the African Union have passed several decisions relating to climate change and they need to take action but it is not accompanied with the appropriate resources. To have a green economy, we need to have different kinds of approaches to doing business, have the right technologies which cost money, we have to train people, we have look into the educational system so we can train young people that can participate in this new type of economy. Resources are needed, institutional capacities are needed, we need to look at our training systems so that we can put emphasis not just on tertiary education but vocational training as well because most of the people who practice agriculture are in the rural areas, we have to look at giving them skills that can support them in their efforts to respond to climate change. I think as a continent, the awareness is there to address the issue of climate change and that needs to be accompanied by appropriate policies, reforming institutions and resources that should go into investment in concrete programs to address this issue.

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