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What Is Needed to Ensure An Equitable Deal for Africa at COP 17
7 December 2011
Lindiwe Majele Sibanda


Africa's adaptive capacity to climate change is itself constrained by widespread poverty, low human capacity, a lack of appropriate technologies, poor infrastructure, and susceptibility to high food prices.

Agriculture is central to Africa's economies and its peoples' livelihoods. If harnessed, its enormous potential could help the continent meet its wider ambitions of peace and prosperity, becoming a key driver of sustainable growth and development.

Pillar 1 of the Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP) advances the development of a Framework on Agriculture Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation as part of the sustainable land and water use portfolio.

Still, the policy message remains mixed and inconsistent.

Agriculture's position in the discourse is not without its value-laden context, often portrayed as a villain in the context of emissions. In contrast, its socio-economic role-livelihoods, nutrition and health-calls for a broader and more developmental approach in which social and environmental benefitshave priority.

Adding voice to the 'triple win' of improving agricultural productivity and food security, addressing climate change, and improving the lives and livelihoods of rural populations that live in poverty, through multi-stakeholder policy dialogues, creates unique opportunities for policy innovation.

Bringing the voice of affected rural communities, where the greatest sense of urgency exists, more directly into the negotiation process is key.

The African Challenge

The 21st century has seen renewed efforts to tackle Africa's development problems. Since 2008, there has been greater interest in investing in African agriculture, a sector that is the backbone of the majority of African economies (World Development Report 2008; AlertNet, 2011).

However, Africa's sustained development is often hampered by an unpredictable and unforgiving climate, with 12 of the 25 most-at-risk countries being in Africa (Maplecroft, 2010). The close link between the changing climate and human security has increasingly become part of the global discourse and Africa's climate story is largely defined by its dependence on rain-fed agriculture.

Risks to Africa's well-being are not purely economic, though, but also include the potential for the spread of disease and escalating conflicts over increasingly limited and scarce resources, particularly water. Indeed, the volatile mix of food and water insecurity has already been linked to conflicts in Somalia, Ivory Coast, and Burkina Faso.

Yet, Africa's adaptive capacity to climate change is itself constrained by widespread poverty, low human capacity, a lack of appropriate technologies, poor infrastructure, and susceptibility to high food prices.

These factors put millions of Africans at greater risk of poverty and hunger, imperil the region's chances to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and, indeed, increase the likelihood of mass emigration.

Climate change, therefore, is one of the most pressing challenges on the regional political and economic agenda.

Agriculture - Climate Nexus

Agriculture is central to Africa's economies and its peoples' livelihoods. If harnessed, its enormous potential could help the continent meet its wider ambitions of peace and prosperity, becoming a key driver of sustainable growth and development. Yet, in certain systems, agriculture contributes as much as 30 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions (Meridian Institute, 2011).

Thus, sustaining food security will require intense efforts to increase productivity while shifting to low-carbon and zero-waste modes of production. Climate-smart agricultural techniques offer the potential to substantially reduce emissions and increase carbon storage in soil.

For FAO, climate-smart agriculture delivers a critical 'win-win' situation, one that includes higher sustainable productivity, greater resilience, reduced greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), and progress toward national food security and development goals (FAO, 2010).

Through sustainable intensification, use of alternative crops and changes in farm management practices, African farmers could remain on the same land, enjoy increased yields, and contribute to mitigating climate change by reducing deforestation and the encroachment of agriculture into natural ecosystems (Bellassen, 2010).

Accordingly, Africa's political leadership at the highest level has stated its commitment to address the challenges of climate change.

This is reflected in various decisions and resolutions of African Union (AU) Summits and conferences of relevant African ministerial bodies, most notably the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN), the Joint Annual Meetings of the AU Conference of Ministers of Economy and Finance, and the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) Conference of Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development (ECA, 2010).

Furthermore, Pillar 1 of the Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP) advances the development of a Framework on Agriculture Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation as part of the sustainable land and water use portfolio.

Agriculture in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Process

Still, Africa cannot make such fundamental transformations on its own. Development aid and foreign direct investment are needed, at appropriate levels of scale, particularly in the agriculture sector. To date, though, there has been no decision or work programme dedicated to agriculture within the global climate change policy negotiations in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process.

Despite the clear recognition of sustainable agriculture under the Kyoto Protocol (Article 2, paragraph 1), the 53 African countries, constituting over a quarter of the 193 member countries of the UNFCCC, have so far not managed to sustain a visible policy space for agricultural adaptation and mitigation in the global climate policy framework.

During COP 16 in Cancun, agriculture was considered under sectoral approaches within the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention (AWG-LCA) text, but was ultimately excluded in the final hours of deliberations.

The Cancun agreements recognise agriculture as a driver of deforestation, thereby making the sector eligible for consideration under adaptation actions, essentially allowing agriculture to piggy-back on deforestation in order to gain eligibility. Overall, the policy message remains mixed and inconsistent.

What is Needed for Africa to Be Successful in Durban, COP 17?

The next round of climate talks is poised to take place in Sub-Saharan Africa in November 2011 for the second time; in Durban, South Africa.

Supported by the African Union (AU), the African Development Bank (AfDB), and the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), African states are now in the driver's seat and have a real chance to push for the operationalisation of the agreements reached in Copenhagen (COP 15) and Cancun (COP 16).

Africa must maximise this singular opportunity to score a victory based on a dedicated track for agriculture within the UNFCCC process.

Success will rely on a number of key strategies:

1. Increasing Advocacy though Smart Global Partnerships

Since 2009, the climax event for key policy advocates of the agriculture-climate nexus, including FANRPAN, has been Agriculture and Rural Development Day (ARDD), held in parallel with the annual UNFCC COP meetings.

The event brings together hundreds of pro-climate, smart-agriculture proponents, including researchers, governments, farmers, the private sector, NGOs and, unfortunately, only a small crop of negotiators (http://www.agricultureday.org/).

Such efforts should be increased in the run-up to COP 17, with greater involvement of negotiators.

2. Training Journalists

A well-informed and well-prepared media can help to give prominence and visibility to key issues, also making them more easily understood by policy makers and the public alike.

FANRPAN's training workshops for the media help to build capacity and knowledge in accurately covering agricultural development issues in the region.

These are usually held alongside the FANRPAN Regional Food Security Policy Dialogues (http://www.ips.org/africa/library/FANRPAN-newsletter-2010-SML.pdf ).

3. Empowering African Negotiators

Agriculture's position in the discourse is not without its value-laden context, often portrayed as a villain in the context of emissions.

In contrast, its socio-economic role-livelihoods, nutrition and health- calls for a broader and more developmental approach in which social and environmental benefits have priority.

Progress toward this has been slow partially due to a lack of information and knowledge, a situation requiring urgent attention.

The poorest countries, significantly affected by such inconsistencies in global policy, must strengthen their influence and advocacy in the global climate institutional framework.

Scientific evidence grounded in the local context is a key ingredient to more meaningful engagement by African negotiators.

The UNDP and the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN), amongst others, provide UNFCCC negotiators with the tools to make evidence-based, pro-development interventions (http://www.unitar.org/delivering-one-undp-and-unitar-join-forces-strengthen-african-participation-key-multilateral-negotia; http://cdkn.org/resource/defining-climate-compatible-development/).

4. Supporting Bottom-up Advocacy Campaigns

Bringing the voice of affected rural communities, where the greatest sense of urgency exists, more directly into the negotiation process is key.

Civil society organizations have a pivotal role in advancing bottom-up and people-centric policies, including the scaling-up of 'good practice' multi-focus adaptation interventions.

Farmer participation and the use of innovative techniques such as theatre for policy advocacy (http://www.fanrpan.org/documents/d00958/) are ideal for bringing an African flavour to COP 17.

5. Engaging in Multi-stakeholder Intersectoral Policy Dialogues

Adding voice to the 'triple win' of improving agricultural productivity and food security, addressing climate change, and improving the lives and livelihoods of rural populations that live in poverty, through multi-stakeholder policy dialogues, creates unique opportunities for policy innovation.

In 2010, the FANRPAN Regional High Level Multi-stakeholder Food Security Policy Dialogue focused on livestock and fisheries policies for food security and trade in a changing climate.

Looking to Durban

To ensure that Africa emerges from the 2011 UNFCCC negotiations with a fair deal, strengthened coordination and negotiation structures are needed.

A more development-oriented approach is central to a long-term and sustained solution to climate change.

Africa has not been idle. However, sustaining home-grown good practice and innovation depends on equitable and fair partnership arrangements and an enabling policy framework.

The clarion message for COP 17, hosted on African soil, should be "NO AGRICULTURE, NO DEAL".

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