The 27th Conference of Parties (COP27) is described as an African COP which must address climate change challenges in Africa. Africa contributes only 3% to greenhouse gas emissions but suffers disproportionately from its impacts.
Farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa are particularly vulnerable to climate change, because they mostly rely on rain-fed agriculture instead of irrigation. In Kenya for instance, the short rainy season typically lasts from October to December, after which the weather becomes too dry to support growing crops. Every year has its own challenges but thanks to climate change, farmers are now facing greater difficulties.
As World leaders meet for COP27 from 6th to 18th Nov in Egypt, communities around the world are grappling with the compounded impacts of a global pandemic, growing pressures from climate crisis, high energy and fertilizer prices, and protracted conflicts, which have disrupted production and supply chains and dramatically increased global food insecurity, especially for the most vulnerable.
Currently, millions of Kenyans desperately need water and food due to what can be described as the worst drought to hit the country in the decade. According to the National Drought Mangement Authority (NDMA) the drought situation continues to worsen in 20 Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASAL) counties. The food insecurity is primarily driven by a combination of shocks, including a fourth successive below average rainy season which was poorly distributed in space and short-lived resulting in below average crop production to near crop failure and poor livestock production; localized resource-based conflict; and high food prices as a result of the war in Ukraine and low in-country production.
The effects of climate change on agriculture to the African farmer can result in lower crop yields and poor nutritional quality due to drought, heat waves, cold snaps and frost, severe storms and flooding as well as increases in pests and plant diseases. Recently, Sub-Saharan Africa has witnessed the spread of fall armyworms, an invasive caterpillar that can devastate maize yields when left unchecked. We still don’t know for sure what caused this outbreak, but some scientists have linked its spread with climate change.
What can African farmers do to adapt to the effects of climate change?
While the future may look uncertain, it’s never too late to reverse the course. Governments, non-govermental institutions, and private sector groups need to include support for smallholder farmers in their wider efforts to combat climate change.
- COP 27 is an opportunity to reset our relationship with Nature Based Solutions, including regenerative agriculture, have a central role in countries’ nationally determined contributions (NDCs) and national adaptation plans.
- Governments should increase investments in irrigation to ensure that farmers will maintain yields even when the weather is uncertain; invest in better roads to help connect markets which would help farmers sell their produce at fair prices; and invest in upgraded crop-storage facilities to help prevent spoilage and food waste.
- Improved farmers’ behavior by getting back to the traditional ways of living naturally sustainable lives. This entails preserving biodiversity which is essential for food security and nutrition; growing native species of crops that are better adapted and are often more resistant to drought, altitude, flooding, or other extreme
- Enable farmers to access financing, tools, and training.
- Water harvesting, storage and efficient use are key to fighting food insecurity. There is need for a paradigm shift from rain-fed agriculture to Water-harvesting and storage can be done at community and household level. Community owned/grassroot innovations such as Emu Sacco are useful in resource mobilization from governments, donors and community to finance water security.