Agriculture sector financiers resolute on cushioning farmers against climate change

19/09/2017
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Major agriculture sector financiers, U.N. agencies and research organizations have underscored the urgent need to cushion small-scale African farmers from the adverse effects of climate change.

The mainstream financiers of agriculture participating at the 7th session of the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) jointly supported by the premier regional financier, the African Development Bank (AfDB) in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, noted the widespread impact of climate change and its effect on farming.

“We must continue to develop climate resilience and work towards enhancing farmers’ capacity to deal with the climate change effects causing drought in every three year-cycle in the Sub-Saharan Africa region,” said Boddupalli Prasanna, Lead Maize Specialist at Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).

At the AGRF Summit under the theme: “Accelerating Africa’s Path to Prosperity: Growing Inclusive Economies and Jobs through Agriculture,” a group of agriculture sector financiers, researchers and academic institutions met to discuss measures to protect the farmer from crop losses.

Prasanna said drought left 16 million food insecure in the East African region while an army worm outbreak has spread to 30 countries, threatening crop production.

Prasanna, who works at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT), said policies were required to help cushion the farmers to build their own resistance to climate change.

CIMMYT efforts to build climate resilience go back years back before the international community prioritized the need for measures to protect communities from climate change. The research body estimates that while 36 million hectares of farmland was under maize cultivation in Africa, the research body managed to produce drought-resistant crop seeds covering 230,000 square hectares.

“The cost of doing nothing is tremendous,” said Sana Jatta, Regional Director, East and Southern Africa Division at the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), a Rome-based agricultural financier, addressing a symposia on “The Business of Small Holder Farmers-Building Resilience and Mitigating and Adopting to Climate Change in African Agriculture” on Wednesday, September 9, 2017.

IFAD called for partnerships between the agriculture sector and the exchange of technologies across the entire food production chain with relations between scientists and donors maintained to benefit the small-holder farmer along the food production chain.

Jatta, who accompanied heads of Rome-based UN agencies to a tour of Ethiopia’s Tigray and Somali regional states to witness steps taken in building community resilience against climate change, said the heads of the UN agencies were encouraged by steps taken to cushion communities from climate harm.

The IFAD official said although the drought persists in Ethiopia, nobody has died as a result of drought because of the investments made in protecting livelihoods and enhancing farmers coping mechanisms.

The Ethiopian Government invests US $175,000 on distributing water to the drought-hit region daily, Jatta said.

“We know the solutions to farmers,” said Brylyne Chitsunge, the Pan African Parliament’s Ambassador for Food Security in Africa. “Get them to understand the challenge of climate change and start identifying the farmers in need of help at the household level and get new seeds developed.”

Chitsunge’s sentiments echo Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s statement at the AGRF Summit when she praised the AfDB for assisting her country to set up an electronic farmer’s registration system, where 320 farmers were registered to receive regular farm inputs to bolster productivity.

The Liberian leader also called for joint regional research undertakings, laying emphasis on key food crops to maximize and rationalize the utilization of the agricultural sector resources.