New Security Beat is the blog of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars' Environmental Change and Security Program (ECSP).
Can “Climate-Smart Agriculture” Help Feed Africa’s Growing Population?
Posted by: Brenda Zulu // Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Food production needs to increase 70 percent by 2050 to meet the demands of a growing world population, said former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in a keynote address on “climate-smart agriculture” at a COP-17 event hosted by the World Bank and African Union. Annan, who is now chairman of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), said this was a particular concern in Africa, where four out of five citizens are dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods.
One in seven people in the world do not have enough food to eat, Annan said, and climate change is expected to make this challenge more difficult to overcome. Climate-smart agriculture includes a wide variety of techniques that help increase the resilience of communities and protect them from extreme weather events, such as terracing to prevent soil erosion, improving weather forecasting, managing water runoff, and developing irrigation systems.
“Climate change affects us by undermining our resource base through water and soil degradation,” said Prime Minister of Ethiopia Meles Zenawi at the event. “There is need to protect the resources and to rehabilitate green areas of our land.” He said that since 70 percent of Africans are small-scale farmers and that most of the poor in Africa were farmers, there is no better way to fight poverty on the continent than through agriculture.
South African President Jacob Zuma said at the event that given that the UN projects a population of more than nine billion people in the world by 2050, agriculture should be a priority as it is more vulnerable to climate change than any other sector.
“Climate-smart agriculture includes proven practical techniques such as mulching, intercropping, conservation agriculture, integrated crop management and agro forestry, improved grazing, and innovative better weather management,” he said, all of which have the potential to help increase crop yields.
Mary Robinson, chair of the Global Leaders Council for Reproductive Health, said there could be no smart agriculture without integrating women’s issues, because climate change affects women disproportionately. “Women make the connection between climate-smart agriculture, food security, and gender,” she said.
“Our ability to feed the growing population under climate variability and change will require new expertise and harmonized efforts,” said Robinson.
Annan agreed, saying African women should be fully involved in early action that can support technical assistance, such as screening agriculture plans to ensure they are “climate smart” as well as integrating climate resilience and mitigation into ongoing poverty-reduction programs and testing new approaches.
But according to Brylyne Chitsunge, a farmer from Pretoria speaking on the panel, things will need to change considerably from the status quo. “The small-scale farmer remains very much marginalized in institutions,” she said. “They exist on paper but they really don’t exist.”
Brenda Zulu is a member of Women’s Edition for Population Reference Bureau and a freelance writer based in Zambia. Her reporting from the COP-17 meeting in Durban (see the “From Durban” series on New Security Beat) is part of a joint effort by the Aspen Institute, Population Action International, and the Wilson Center.
Sources: World Bank, World Food Programme.
Photo Credit: “Cultivated hillsides,” courtesy of flickr user coda (Damien du Toit).