|Following journalist training at COP17
|12 June 2012
The goals of the Conference of the Parties climate change convention are to stabilise the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
Interacting with the largest gathering of news sources
Covering COP17 provided an opportunity to interact with the largest ever gathering of news sources, especially on climate change and agriculture. This encounter also equipped journalists with skills to gather information and beat deadlines - even though the sources were not in the same location and these locations were not easily identifiable.
Journalists were able to establish contacts and form networks, such as those working with FANRPAN. We were also able to establish contacts with experts in various fields such as forestry, agriculture and climate change in general. These experts are readily available for clarification, especially in stories about the region.
The culture of brainstorming among the journalists also helped us develop a tactic to generate story ideas on just about any subject matter in these sciences. The compiling of the FANRPAN-COP17 newsletter at the end of the conference was a fulfilling experience, especially as it was the best packaged bulleting with marvellous layout and editorial, covering experiences of the African continent from as far afield as Kenya to the least recognised players such as Swaziland.
Another exposure of this nature can guarantee one of the most formidable teams of journalists on the continent, especially in the SADC region.
Bonn gives thumbs-up to COP17 outcomes
Representatives from the 32 countries in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiating blocs are determined to build on the strong momentum of the Durban UN climate talks.
The representatives, who met in Bonn, Germany, on the weekend of 5 and 6 May, determined what needed to be done to ensure that key decisions that emerged from the Durban conference were effectively implemented. They also committed to intensify the curbing of greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the inevitable impacts of climate change.
COP17, which took place in November/December 2011 in Durban in South Africa, delivered a comprehensive package of decisions that advances the global effort to address climate change.
One of the central outcomes of this meeting was to pave the way for a legally binding agreement under the UN Climate Convention applicable to all parties, to be completed by 2015 and to come into effect from 2020.
Speaking at the two-day Bonn meeting, International Relations and Cooperation Minister and President of the COP17/CMP7, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, said the Durban conference resulted in one of the most encompassing and furthest reaching outcomes in the history of the climate change negotiations.
"Equity needed to be a central component of the future climate change regime. We must implement the agreements that have been made on the Green Climate Fund, finance, adaptation, technology and capacity building. The key focus area must still remain - implementation, implementation and implementation now."
Nkoana-Mashabane said political guidance was needed in several areas to make progress this year. This included amending the Kyoto Protocol in Doha at the end of the year so that it can continue at the beginning of 2013.
"There was a need to clarify emission reduction pledges and accounting arrangements outside of the Kyoto Protocol for the period up to 2020. This would assist the adaptation and technology institutions to enhance country action. The other step would be to advance long-term climate finance and define the path for a new global climate change agreement."
UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres said that governments needed to act urgently, decisively and tangibly to reduce emissions.
"This was economically feasible and technically attainable," said Nkoana-Mashabane.
"The success would, however, depend on ambitious reduction efforts in industrialised countries, and on a sufficient level of ambition to support action by developing countries."
At COP17, governments noted with grave concern the significant gap between countries' current pledges to curb emissions and what was required to limit the increase of global average temperatures to at the most, 2 degrees Celsius.
Because of this, they agreed to undertake a work plan to close the gap between what had already been pledged and what was required to meet this goal.
No agriculture, no deal - mission achieved at COP17
"The slogan 'No agriculture, no deal' is paying off. The cry has been heard," says Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) Chief Executive Officer Lindiwe Majela Sibanda.
"For the first time since 1994 - the first Conference of Parties - last year's conference realised that we are serious about agriculture being granted its rightful place on a world agenda that has to provide food security for seven billion people.
"Whilst our call is not a protest call, it illustrates how serious we are about a pressing situation. Promoting it so vigorously at COP17 indeed paid off. June 2012 sees the presentation of a submission at the COP18 preparatory meeting in Bonn, Germany. The presentation is to elevate agriculture to a stand-alone item on the COP agenda with a permanent working group deliberating about this essential industry.
"COP18 in Doha, Qatar will receive this submission, a submission it will not be able to ignore. FANRPAN, its partners and its stakeholders - locally, regionally and globally - have accepted their responsibility for climate smart agriculture that will ensure food security to an ever-growing world population.
"At FANRPAN we fully realise that as the only independent African organisation that advocates food security, researches and collects information to inform the policy agenda, we need to focus on our core business - ensuring that foolproof information is available to ensure food security to all the people of Africa.
"We are also mindful of the fact that agriculture contributes significantly to climate change factors - it is after all the industry that feeds seven billion people globally - and obviously needs to be part of the solution. However, we need to be an integral part of the global discussion agenda, not an add-on. Part of this solution is the creation of a climate smart agriculture solution programme to counteract the effects of climate change factors. Climate smart agriculture is a pathway towards development and food security built on three pillars - increasing productivity and income, enhancing resilience of livelihoods and ecosystems and reducing and removing gas emissions from the atmosphere."
But Sibanda is adamant about the role of farmers in Africa.
"Allow them to produce food sustainably to feed a growing urban population. There is a disjoint between technology and policy. The technologies are there - soil and animal management and water harvesting, but policies don't give poor rural farmers the tools to use them. These sustainable technologies need to be adapted to local conditions and then adopted by farmers - but investment must enable this.
"A policy process that does not enable this adaptation and adoption robs African farmers of their natural assets, sending them into a downward spiral of poverty and environmental degradation. Twenty years ago yields were double what they are today and farmers could make a decent living.
"How do we bridge the gap? In an acute crisis it is more likely for policymakers and political leaders to act. However, in slow onset environmental crises such as climate change, the impetus to act can be less strong. The lack of political leadership and commitment of the 2004 CAADP pledge taken in Maputo to dedicate ten percent of national budgets in Africa to agricultural investment is a shining example. To date only ten countries have put their money where their mouths are," she says.
"A silo approach hinders development planning and is damaging to the rural poor farmer. For years agriculture was, for example, ignored during climate talks - it was even considered a dirty word as it wasn't an 'environment' sector. This, despite the fact that it is actually the sector most impacted by climate change.
"However it is reassuring that we are close to having an agriculture work programme under the Scientific and Technical Advisory Body of the UNFCCC, which will be decided upon at the next climate negotiations in Qatar.
"I also believe that at Rio+20 the seven main focus areas - food, jobs, energy, cities, water, oceans and disasters - are the right mix for rural poor people and smallholders. However, I believe three imperatives - bold political leadership, commitments to invest in sustainable agriculture and food security with smallholders and a framework that takes an integrated approach to investing in agriculture - are essential. This is the only way to create green dignified jobs, engage the youth and empower poor rural women who, despite producing 70 percent of the food, only own two percent of the land. If we meet these imperatives, I believe we will create the future we want.
"With all this information at hand it will then be COP18's responsibility to allow all these role-players to deliver on their responsibility," says Sibanda.
What did FANRPAN do at COP17?
To add impetus to the slogan 'No agriculture, no deal', FANRPAN pulled out all stops at COP17.
Attending any COP conference can be overwhelming and daunting to say the least. Two weeks and some 20 000 delegates can make one lose focus and return with seemingly nothing achieved.
A grant from the research programme on climate change, agriculture and food security assists FANRPAN to strengthen its advocacy capacity in information packaging and dissemination. Of even greater value was the capability to engage with local and international stakeholders before and during COP17.
The daunting task was to identify key products to engage in Africa-wide and global policy processes, to ensure engagement and collaboration in the key processes through virtual and face-to-face engagements and to use climate change, agriculture and food security outputs and those of partners to inform targeted audiences and equip actors with research evidence.
It was also essential to identify and coordinate opportunities to strengthen institutional and human resource capacity for policy and advocacy on climate change issues in the FANRPAN member countries and to bring experiences from Southern Africa into the global discourse on climate change and food security.
On-the-ground actions at COP17 entailed assisting with preparations for Agriculture and Rural Development Day 2011 and promoting the event among international and local journalists, civil society organisations, farmers' organisations, governments and other relevant stakeholders - and in all of this working closely with South Africa as the host government for COP17.
The FANRPAN secretariat participated in over 20 planning meetings, made presentations in more than 40 pre-COP17 national and global meetings and had close to 20 speaking engagements in Durban during the event.
In its endeavour to create an informed and dedicated African agricultural journalist corps, FANRPAN continued its journalism training programme at COP17. Five journalists - one each from Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, Swaziland and Tanzania were trained. They were all officially media-accredited by the UNFCCC.
Apart from the news releases that were issued to relevant local, regional and international media houses, more than 40 articles were distributed to the journalists' respective media outlets, relevant agricultural media stakeholders, posted on the FANRPAN website and published in the FANRPAN COP17 newsletter that was distributed at the event.
From New York in the USA, to Tunis in Tunisia, to Midrand in South Africa, local, regional and global appearances saw FANRPAN presenting agriculture's case at no less than 34 occasions. These included presentations at the UK Parliament Roundtable on Food Security and Agriculture Development, at the Rockefeller Climate Change Project Inception meeting in Bonn, at the IFPRI-CropLife project at the UN headquarters in New York and at the world conference of science journalists in Doha, Qatar.
In Africa FANRPAN presented at various climate change and agriculture related conferences in Kenya, Ethiopia, Botswana, Zambia, Mauritius, Malawi, Mozambique, Ghana, Mozambique, Tunisia and Swaziland.
In South Africa FANRPAN made no less than 17 presentations, including those to the legislative sector of the South African Parliament in Cape Town, the Conservation Agriculture Regional Policy Meeting in Pretoria, the All Africa Ministers of Agriculture Climate Change Meeting in Johannesburg and the Public Relations Institute of Southern Africa's conference on climate change in Durban.
All of this is lifting the voice of agriculture on the road to Bonn, Rio+20 and COP18 in Doha. The cry 'No agriculture, no deal' is certainly reverberating around global climate change discussions - it will remain relevant.
COP17 has accomplished crucial outcomes - South African agricultural minister
South Africa's Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Tina Joemat-Pettersson is upbeat about the successes of COP17. FANRPAN-COP17 News asked her to share her optimism with readers.
- Your views on the outcomes of COP17, in general and for agriculture in specific.
There is no doubt that Durban delivered beyond expectations during the seventeenth Conference of the Parties (COP 17) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
This historic climate conference has accomplished crucial outcomes in the confirmation of a second commitment period as well as important key decisions relating to agreement on the Green Climate Fund, which can be operational in 2012, and at the same time can help developing countries prepare to access the fund, boosting their efforts to establish their own clean energy futures and adapt to existing climate change. Durban achieved an ambitious, coherent and comprehensive outcome on adaptation which balances adaptation and mitigation. This outcome was also a bottom line for Africa and gives appropriate priority to the most vulnerable countries, particularly the least developing countries. The establishment of the Adaptation Committee, which will report to the COP on its efforts to improve the coordination of adaptation actions at a global scale as well as strengthening the adaptive capacities of the poorest and most vulnerable countries, is welcomed.
We acknowledge tremendous progress and agreement made in some of the key issues such as technology with the technology mechanism that will become fully operational in 2012, as well as other key decisions on the support to developing countries.
Although a firm decision on agriculture has been deferred to COP18, we welcome the call by UNFCCC for parties to submit views related to agriculture which will be considered by the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice, under the UNFCCC, at its 36th session in Bonn, Germany in May, with the aim of exchanging views and adopting a decision on this matter at COP18.
- Are you satisfied that we are moving forward to ensure that agriculture is recognised - and will become a stand-alone agenda item at COP18?
Now that agriculture has, for the first time, been placed on the agenda of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice where mitigation issues are being discussed, it is essential that the scope and key elements that address important sectoral issues such food security, poverty reduction, recognition of small and emerging farmers and traditional knowledge systems be clearly defined and addressed. A comprehensive and action orientated programme on the implementation of adaptation actions must be established.
- You played a significant role in uniting African agriculture ministers to "speak with one voice" at COP17. Is this cooperation continuing?
Yes, we need to continue to speak with one voice to show our unity and strengthen our position.
- Is African agriculture meeting the expectations to ensure that the challenges of climate change are being met?
Yes, African agriculture will always meet expectations to ensure that the challenges of climate change are being met. Collectively, as a continent, and within South Africa we can then tap into well-proven production practices, information technology and scientific findings, to rapidly scale up policies and practices that achieve the triple win of food security, adaptation and mitigation.
- And South Africa?
South Africa will do its best to deliver beyond expectations in ensuring that the challenges of climate change are being met. To avoid solving a challenge while exacerbating another, policy leaders should take an integrated approach to food security, poverty and climate change. Those approaches can then include:
- Integrating the planning of land, agriculture, forests, fisheries and water use at local, watershed and regional scales, to ensure that synergies are properly captured.
- Promoting activities that increase carbon storage, combine animal husbandry and trees with food production, and are geared towards improving soil fertility.
- Reducing a variety of emissions from agriculture such as nitrous oxide from fertiliser application, livestock emissions and methane from rice cultivation.
- Exploring carbon finance as a lever to promote sustainable agriculture practices that have many other direct benefits for smallholder farmers.
- Are you satisfied with the progress to implement climate smart agriculture?
We will continue to implement climate smart agriculture, hence there are on-going initiatives to ensure that we deepen the understanding of the concept. My ministry is working on mechanisms to share knowledge on implemented projects on climate smart agriculture to identify its key elements. This can lead to the development of a climate smart agriculture strategy and further strengthen and expand a national network of climate smart agriculture in the country.
- On the road to Bonn and then to COP18, what is your message to the African agricultural community?
It is absolutely essential that African agriculture finds common ground ahead of the Bonn meeting - and other meetings - leading to COP18. It is also important that African countries unite and submit their views related to agriculture which highlights areas of convergence.
Saving the environment with waste paper
When the clock strikes six, Joyce Levison has two things on her mind - the long, tiresome and dangerous journey to the Bunda forests and what her two grandchildren will eat when she is away. With the effects that climate change has brought about, there is no telling the weather for the day, but Levison still makes her two-hour journey into the woods, regardless.
At 64 one would expect Levison to get a good rest, but she spends about eight hours every day fetching firewood in the forests. She also has to find time to cultivate her garden where she grows maize, and do some casual labour to earn money for her upkeep.
"It's a tough life, but I must keep working or else my grandchildren and I will starve to death. Sometimes I brave the scorching heat or the rains to get the firewood," she says.
About 50 metres from her house is another woman, Thanlo Delinesi, who does not know her age but seems to be in her late 70s. She looks frail and washed away. She blinks continuously as she speaks with desperation, her hands tied at the back.
"What can we do, we know that by going to the forests we are risking our lives. When we go to fetch wood, the guard officials sometimes confiscate the wood, but we still go back because we have no alternative," she says.
In their search for a means of survival, these women have contributed to environmental degradation and climate change. Fortunately, women in Chalera Village in Lilongwe and in Chiseka in Nkhotakota are now reversing the situation.
Today, Joyce and her fellow members of the Chalera Women's Club are making briquettes, a project initiated by a senior lecturer of the Bunda College, Dr David Mkwambisi. The briquette-making project offers alternative energy sources to wood fuel in efforts to curb climate change effects and deforestation. It is also a source of income for the women who sell some of the briquettes.
The Chalera Women's Club runs the pilot project and Mkwambisi hopes the production of ecological briquettes can extend across Lilongwe to help save forests and provide a decent source of income to women. The project, which started last year, also allows the women to put time to better and more productive use. Most of its members are between the ages of 25 and 65.
With the help of the Kumudzi Eco-Learning Centre under the Bunda College, the women received training in waste recycling to make briquettes which are used as an alternative to firewood and charcoal.
The cooperative now has 200 members whose lives have significantly improved with the money they earn from selling the briquettes, which they use to buy food and pay school fees for their children, among other things.
"I can now afford a better lifestyle. These days, I am able to eat good food and my grandchildren can now go to school regularly. It takes a group of ten women only two hours to make at least 200 briquettes. So we spend much less time, compared to the days we used to go to the forest," says Levison.
"We use less than five briquettes for a day's fuel requirement. So, not only are we saving time, we can also put the saved time to find casual labour," she says.
According to Mkwambisi, the women have now started a small savings account of K20 000.
"The technology is not new and it has been advocated by the Department of Energy.
We soak paper in water overnight and the women pound the paper, using a mortar. The paper is then processed in a machine, developed by Lilongwe Technical College experts. Then the briquettes are dried and ready for use.
He says the women are now asking for adult literacy lessons, and the Kumudzi Eco-Learning Centre has lined up more projects along their way.
"Soon they will start growing indigenous vegetables such as Luni and Bonongwe. They will also go into bee-keeping. We want to improve the lives of women so that they too can adapt to climate change and advance development in our country."
Although the impact of the project has not been measured, Mkwambisi says the use of paper or sawdust helps to reduce carbon dioxide emissions as this is the number one gas that is causing global warming.
The 2011 Malawi Government Annual Economic Report underlines the promotion of the alternative energy sources project, whose goal is to significantly increase the country's reliance on non-traditional fuels for cooking and heating, thereby improving the country's environment.
"Instead of paper being burnt at the college, it is used to make briquettes. While the paper is being burnt, certain gases are released into the atmosphere, causing global warming. And then there is the use of sawdust - when this stays in the ground for so long, it becomes damp and releases certain gases which again contribute to climate change. The aim is to try as much as possible to reduce such gases from being emitted."
One of the women who is facilitating the project with Mkwambisi is a 22-year old Bunda College graduate, Linda Sankhulani, who trains the women.
Sankhulani says the use of briquettes promotes good health as opposed to firewood and charcoal.
"The project is reducing carbon emissions as the waste paper is no longer burnt but recycled into briquettes. Briquettes are also environmentally friendly since they emit less greenhouse gases when burnt and are healthier for women to use. The project is helping the women to a source of fuel, even in the rainy season when firewood is scarce.
"As women and children are the ones who suffer most when it comes to these issues, this project is also enhancing their lives as the women are further encouraged to sell the briquettes. Climate change has resulted in among others, erratic rains, prolonged dry spells, strong winds, heavy storms and floods.
"Many people, especially in Africa, have been affected. Malawi has not been spared as we have seen dry spells in the beginning of the 2011/2012 rainy season, erratic rainfall and variations in temperature which has resulted health problems. The country has been affected greatly as it depends heavily on natural resources and agriculture.
"Women in particular have faced several challenges as a result of climate change which has led to shortage of fuel wood, lack of safe and potable water and increased health-related problems. These women were contributing to environmental degradation, but now they are helping save the environment while adapting to climate change effects for their own benefit," she says.
Delinesi says their lives are improving for the better. "Soon we will know how to read and write and more importantly grow our own vegetables."
A recent Oxfam report states that climate change in Malawi is pushing people further into poverty and it is women that suffer the most. Titled 'The winds of change: climate change, poverty and the environment in Malawi', the report says that an increase in temperatures and intense rain in the country over the past 40 years has led to drought and flooding, causing shorter growing seasons, poor crop yields, food shortages, hunger and the spread of diseases.
Already women have multiple roles in Malawi as farmers, child carers and providers of food, water and firewood. The effects of climate change and their roles have increased, making it difficult for them. Women's' weak position in Malawian society means that they have less access to income, credit and no voice in decision-making, making it difficult for them to find other sources of income or influence action on climate change in Malawi.
Swaziland scoops major post
Swaziland was elected to lead Africa in climate change negotiations for the next two years to be held in different forums.
Emanuel Dlamini of Swaziland Meteorological Services, who is also the focal person on climate change in Swaziland, was elected by the Africa Group delegates to speak on behalf of Africa at COP 18 to be held in Qatar later this year.
Dlamini says it is a great honour for a small country like Swaziland.
"It was an achievement for Swaziland and marks the start of a series of consultations so that when Africa speaks on climate change it would be with one voice. Africa's major thrust in these negotiations should be poverty reduction and at the centre of poverty reduction is food security and agriculture."
By 2050 there will be more than nine billion people in the world. Agricultural production must increase by 70 percent to feed our growing population. Agriculture is more vulnerable to climate change than any other sector. Climate changes create risks and uncertainty with potentially serious downsides. Without strong adaptation measures, climate change could reduce food crop production by 10 to 20 percent by 2050, with more severe losses in Africa.
Climate-smart agriculture seeks to enhance agricultural productivity by improving on resilience. Farmers should be at the centre of this transformation of the agriculture sector. Improved agricultural practices have the potential to increase crop yields, diversify income sources and reduce the vulnerability of small farmers to climate change.
Climate-smart agriculture included proven practical techniques such as mulching, intercropping, conservation agriculture, crop rotation, integrated crop-livestock management, agro-forestry, improved grazing, and improved water management – and innovative practices such as better weather forecasting, more resilient food crops, and risk insurance.
"No one knows exactly how the future global climate will develop and what the resultant consequences will be to all of us, particularly the developing and poor countries, but impacts could be considerable. Food in-security, especially in Africa, is linked to the prevailing climate, says Dlamini."
Experiences of a journalist at COP17
Before coming to COP17, I had sensed the despondency of climate activists. I felt the pain of the representatives of the local people being displaced by carbon mitigation projects in Kenya, and above all the devastating drought in the horn of Africa where ten percent of the 40 million people are affected.
COP17 was quite an interesting experience and I have learnt a lot. At some point, I lost my way in Durban's bustling central business district and was nearly burnt to a crisp! After several days of technical jargon, shirt-wetting humidity and overpriced food, and the blisters from running between the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre, the Durban Exhibition Centre and the Climate Change Response Expo and the Africa Pavilion across the road, I still felt optimistic and excited, albeit a little tired.
Covering the UN climate change conference was a life-changing experience for me. The exchange between global journalists covering climate change, important development issues as well as addressing the root issues of poverty and development – what an experience!
While there, I felt the hope and the enthusiasm for what some believe is a lost cause, and that spurred me on. This was indeed a very important and heartwarming event for everyone involved in journalism and covering the COP17 conference.
It was also a great mentoring opportunity from the trainers through the intensive media workshop on climate change - with the support of FANRPAN and trainers from Junxion Communications.
I set out to explore environmental change in South Africa, the host, and the rest of the world and the impact it has on peoples' lives. On the streets of Durban, most South Africans knew of the conference but did not know what climate change was about. This just made me realise how uninformed many South Africans, like Kenyans, are. This gave journalists a great opportunity to learn from one another about journalism and how each country reports on issues like this individually.
More than 194 nations sent more than 30 000 delegates to the conference who have been meeting annually to assess progress in dealing with climate change since 1995. So in Durban, they shared information on greenhouse gas emissions, national policies and the provision of financial support to developing countries in preparation for the impact of climate change.