Statement by AGRA President at the UN Climate Action Summit

At the UN Climate Action Summit, World Leaders Urged to Prioritize Building the Resilience of Smallholder Farmers Against Climate Emergency

The President of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, Dr. Agnes Kalibata, has urged world leaders meeting in New York for the Climate Change Action Summit to increase efforts to build the resilience of smallholder farmers to cope with the ever worsening climate emergency. 

“Today, the world has an opportunity to decide the fate of 70% of the African population that earns a living off their farms as smallholder farmers. They feed Africa – producing 80% of the food we eat—and contribute 25% to the continent’s GDP. Africa’s prosperity depends on them. It is now common knowledge that growth in the agriculture sector is up to 11 times more effective at reducing poverty than growth in any other sector.  

“These farmers are increasingly seeing their livelihoods decimated by climate change resulting in significant increase in the severity and frequency of droughts and other weather extremes. Climate emergency is already a reality on our farms and has been linked to a rise in global hunger. Today, 27 million people are facing acute food shortage in the horn of Africa and the number might grow to 47 million if nothing is done.  

“This has been the trend in the last 4 years. Within this period, the number of people going hungry in Africa has grown by about 34.5 million people to a total of about 250 million people. This is a reversal of the decline witnessed until 2015 and is attributed to the climate emergency that has reduced the yield of key crops like maize by up to 40% in some regions. 

“The tragedy is that most climate investments are almost entirely focused on reducing emissions, not on helping people like African farmers adapt.  

“While reductions in emissions are welcome, the effects of global heating are already underway and will continue for decades. Adaptation is critical. Without it, these farmers could be part of the 100 million people that a new assessment from the Global Commission on Adaptation warns could be pushed below the poverty line by 2030.  

“We are seeing a groundswell of political and policy support for these farmers 

“Earlier this month, over 30 ministers of agriculture attending the annual African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) in Accra, Ghana made a declaration on increasing the adaptation and resilience of African food systems. The declaration called on multilateral, bilateral and private sector partners to support increased funding focused on multiple climate-related challenges to food production in sub-Saharan Africa. 

“At this summit, we have seen the high-level political call to action on resilience and adaptation by ministers.  

“This level of political engagement is critical to ensuring that the world addresses the imbalance that exists between adaptation and mitigation.  

“Farmers are also leading the adaptation charge. In my visits across the continent, I have met farmers who are adapting to climate change by diversifying their crops to include drought-tolerant varieties of cassava, sweet potato, pigeon pea, beans and maize. There is also an explosion of new digital information platforms enabling farmers adapt to the new conditions in their fields that now include new pests and diseases.  

“However, this progress as usual will not deliver the results we need. We need to scale up existing technologies to yield a quantum leap in farmers’ agricultural productivity. These technologies include seed varieties that are adapted to local conditions; fertilizers that are specific to soil needs; and irrigation technologies that are suited to the needs of the farmers.  

“Adaptation also calls for significant increase in international public finance for adaptation to enable scaling up of these technologies; the involvement of the private sector, especially the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that handle 64% of the food consumed on the continent. 

“It also calls for sustainable food and land use systems which, according to the Food and Land Use Coalition (FOLU), could unlock an estimated US$320 billion a year for Africa in new business opportunities by 2030 while restoring the health and resilience to the land, population and economy. 

“From where I sit, we must support smallholders to adapt to climate change; doing nothing is not a choice.” 

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 Media
Contacts: 
 

In New
York:
 

Andrew Cox, AGRA Chief of Staff and Strategy at acox@agra.org or Tel. No: +254 706 044 030 

In Nairobi: 

Waiganjo Njoroge, AGRA Interim Head of Communication at wnjoroge@agra.org or Tel. No: +254 723 857
270  

About AGRA: 

Established in 2006, AGRA is an African-led, Africa-based and farmer centered institution working to put smallholder farmers at the center of the continent’s growing economy by transforming their farming from a solitary struggle to survive to a business that thrives. Working in collaboration with our partners including African governments, researchers, development partners, the private sector and civil society AGRA’s work primarily focuses on smallholder farmers – men and women who typically cultivate staple crops on two hectares or less. In the new strategy for 2017-2021, AGRA is supporting 11 African countries and 30 million smallholder farm households (150 million individuals) to increase their incomes and improve their food security.  AGRA supports the findings of the Global Commission for Adaptation report, though the role by Dr. Kalibata as Commissioner, and the Just Rural Transition, which aims to sustainably support rural populations to sustainably develop.   For more information, visit www.agra.org, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube.  

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