Let’s All Mobilize for Food Security in Africa in the Context of Climate Change

 

The 1st African conference on food security and climate change adaptation, which held in Nairobi (Kenya), from 20 to 21 August 2013 at the UN Headquarters, attracted over 700 participants from 54 countries, including representatives of governments, civil society and organizations, hosted by UNEP, in collaboration with FAO and other UN agencies.

 

The meeting, which aimed at brainstorming on enhancing food security, productivity of ecosystems and climate change adaptation in Africa, was built around plenary presentations, debates and site events. The two-day conference revolved around four major points, namely:

 

The Opening Ceremony

 

Three speeches and a presentation were on the agenda

Concerning statements delivered on the occasion, participants listened to three of them: Mr. Richard MUNANG, Regional Climate Change Coordinator at the UNEP Regional Office for Africa, Mr. Mounkaila GOUMANDAKOYE, Regional Director of UNEP ROA and Mr. Modibo Traoré, FAO Representative at the African Union and the UN Economic Commission for Africa.

 

It came out from the different speeches that Africa is vulnerable to climate change and that it is necessary to develop an ecosystem approach to provide cross-cutting solutions for food security and climate change adaptation. In this regard, the conference, the first of its kind, was intended to be a forum for information exchange and sharing focusing on ecology as a source as solutions to climate change and food insecurity in Africa. The African continent needs a new food production paradigm that provides cross-cutting benefits such as climate change mitigation and adaptation, support to farmers and preservation of ecosystems.

 

To conclude the opening ceremony, the participants were treated to a presentation on foodstuffs and food security in the context of climate change in Africa, by Tony SIMONS, Director General of ICRAF.

 

This paper highlighted a close connection between human security and food security, land degradation and child mortality and unveiled major investment opportunities offered by the agricultural system which appears to be more resilient. Moreover, it appears that Africa has the opportunity to develop cereal crops and this conference enabled participants to discuss ways of promoting investment in this area and encouraging young Africans to remain in rural areas in order to build a continent by revamping the agricultural sector, in accordance with the Maputo Declaration of the African Union in 2003 on agriculture and food security in Africa.

The end of the ceremony paved the way for the second phase of the conference which featured exposés and plenary sessions.

 

Exposés and Plenary Sessions

 

The plenary presentations were of two types namely: sharing of lessons and success stories of projects implemented in Africa that are tied to the development of an ecosystem-based approach to food security and climate adaptations, and discussions on various topics.

 

Lessons on ecosystem-based approach to food security and climate adaptations

 

Eight case studies were presented and participants were enlightened; they included:

♦ Demonstration Project on Maize, banana development and vegetable irrigation in Uganda presented by Patrick Muzinduki, Centre for Research on Kabarole resources,

♦ Permaculture project and agro-ecology projects in Malawi, presented by Molly Cheatum, KUSAMALA,

♦ Crab and fish farming project, mangrove reforestation in Mozambique, by Manuel MENOMUSSANGA, from the Mozambican Ministry of Environment,

♦ Conservation Agriculture Project in Malawi, presented by Welton Phalira from LEAD Southern and Eastern Africa,

♦ Agro-forestry, conservation agriculture and sustainable NTFP harvesting projects in southern Zimbabwe, by Leslie Mhara of Care International,

♦ Project for the promotion of good governance in the forestry sector in Uganda, by Annet Kandole of Care International,

♦ Project to pay for wildlife conservation in Kenya, by Philip Osano of McGill University,

♦ Agro-forestry Project for the stabilization of mobile sand dunes in Nigeria, presented by John Ajigo of the Nigerian Environmental Study/Action Team

These enriching presentations of good lessons elicited lively and constructive feedback from the audience which revolved around ecosystem-based adaptation (EBA). The ensuing plenary sessions allowed participants to make inputs.

Plenary Sessions

These sessions focused on various subjects and were moderated by experts qualified in the relevant field. These included:

♦ Session 1: Scaling up of ecosystem approaches to food security and climate change adaptation; Moderated by Alex Awiti, Director of the Aga Khan University Eastern Africa Institute,

♦ Session 2: Optimization of policy frameworks to integrate ecosystem-based approaches in food security and climate adaptation; Moderated by Tewolde Egziabher, General Manager of Ethiopia's Environmental Protection Agency,

♦ Session 3: Funding mechanisms of ecosystem approaches to food security and climate adaptation. Moderated by Emmanuel Dlamini, president of the African Group of Negotiators,

♦ Session 4: A scientific perspective on ecosystem-based approaches across Africa; Moderated by Abdulai Salifu, Director General of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.

♦ Session 5: The role of the private sector: Stakes and opportunities

 

The deliberations that followed these sessions came up with arguments and positions that are very likely to shape the African Ministerial Conference on Environment (AMCEN) scheduled to hold in Botswana in October 2013. This will help Africa to adopt a common position at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change due to hold in Poland in November 2013. Thus the EBA is perceived by participants as an approach that can help reverse the trend with the private sector playing a pivotal role in its success.

In addition, the main result of this conference was the "Declaration on ecosystem-based approaches for food security and climate change adaptation", in which participants generally recognize ecosystem-based adaptation approaches as the first step towards building resilient food systems and adapting to climate change in Africa. Specifically, participants:

♦ recognize the EBA approach as the first step towards the regeneration of biodiversity, building resilient food systems and adapting to climate change in Africa;

♦ decide that EBA approaches should be adopted and funded;

♦ call on UNEP, FAO, governments and regional organizations to institutionalize the EBA approach in national policy frameworks for food security adapted to climate change;

♦ Urge AMCEN to adopt the recommendations and the declaration of this first conference on food security and climate change adaptation in Africa

Closing Ceremony

To close two days of intense reflections, two speeches were delivered. Namely those of Mr. Edward Kilawe of the FAO Sub-regional Office for East Africa, and Mr. Mounkaila Goumandakoye, Regional Director of UNEP ROA

The message from these speeches is that achieving food security and climate change adaptation require joint efforts from government, the civil society and the private sector. Thus the conference was intended as an experience sharing and consulting framework in order to determine what types of actions are needed to ease the work of farmers in the EBA.

 

In their closing remarks, the speakers drew the participants’ attention to the next AMCEN session in Botswana in October 2013 where Africa is expected to adopt a common position for negotiations at the next United Nations Climate Change Conference. Participants were also invited to participate in the Africa Adaptation Knowledge Network (AAKNet), which is a framework for exchanging ideas and forging partnerships.

 

On this note, participants parted with great satisfaction for having contributed to the achievement of food security in Africa.

 

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