By Agbonkhese Oboh

NO fewer than 45 civil society organisations, CSOs, have said it will be strategic for the governments of African continent to speak a ‘common language’ in their climate actions, since African countries have very low contribution to the current climate crisis, yet are adversely affected by it.

According to the rights groups, this common language should not fall short of placing stronger emphasis on climate change adaptation for protecting its citizens, transitioning its current agriculture and food production system to agro-ecology as the most appropriate model for agriculture and advancing a strong argument to commit industrialised and wealthy countries to provide adequate climate financing for the implementation of its adaptation and mitigation plans.

They spoke in a joint statement entitled “Placing Agro-ecology at the Centre of Climate Action in Africa” at the 2019 Africa Climate Week held in Accra, Ghana, from March 18 to 22, that saw governments of African countries, private sector actors, CSOs and farmers articulate climate actions towards building resilience of communities and demonstrating commitment to do the continent’s fair share of climate change action on the theme “Climate Action in Africa: A Race We Can Win.”

The CSOs said it is common knowledge that Africa is one of the most highly vulnerable regions to the effects of climate change, citing the disaster in Zimbabwe and Mozambique and suggesting that the pattern will continue and worsen, noting that the continent had contributed little to the global climate problem.

According to Philip Jakpor, Head of Media & Campaigns, Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria, ERA/FoEN, “since the beginning of the Africa Climate Week, we have been witnesses to how the fossil fuel industry trade associations and their allies tried to steer the discussions away from the real solutions.

“We stand with farmers and other groups advocating agro-ecology in place of industrial agriculture, which contributes to climate change.”

For Labram Musah, Vision for Alternative Development, Ghana, “the solution to climate change is within the realm of non-market mechanisms and pro-people initiatives. Agro-ecology will not only tackle climate change, it will also ensure that local livelihoods are protected.”

Critical areas

“As advocates for agro-ecology,” the groups said, “we have made the following observations that need critical attention from African governments and all:

“Rural communities who depend on farming for food and income are especially vulnerable to climate change. Farmers who depend on predictable rainfall patterns are harvesting lower yields due to poor soil quality, pest invasions, droughts, floods and waters are drying up in many communities;

“In most cases, these trends hit women and girls the hardest. Women farmers face discrimination when they try to access finance to make the investments needed to cope with the impacts of climate change. Climate change effects also increases the burden of women unpaid care work and further devastate their ability to cope with the brunt of climate change.

“Women who lack fixed properties to use as collateral security are often turned away from accessing bank loans for any meaningful investment in agriculture;

“Global warming is always increasing at an exponential rate and scientists are warning that we have less than a decade, and that considerable efforts are required to keep global temperatures as close to 1.5° above pre-industrial levels as possible, to avert a looming global climate catastrophe.

“Thus, requiring all countries of the world to honour their fair share in reducing greenhouse gas, GHG, emissions as their contribution to climate change mitigation through their implementation the Paris Agreement, yet unfortunately, the Paris Rulebook falls short of compelling governments to decrease emissions in line with their fair share;

“Due to different levels of emissions and capacity to mitigate the negative effects of climate change, countries and more especially those with high emission levels must be guided by the principle of equity in order not to accept or take upon themselves an undue or disproportionate burden for climate change mitigation.

“According to the principle of equity, a country’s fair share of contribution to climate change mitigation should be based on its history of industrialisation and its economic strength. In this regard therefore, the more industrialised countries and economic powers such as the United States of America, Japan and other European countries, should take on more of the responsibility for mitigation;

“Encourage Africa, which has less industrialised and poorer countries, to be allowed to channel much of their resources to adaptation programmes. In addition, the wealthier and more industrial countries should commit to providing funding to support the implementation of national adaption and mitigation plans of African countries;

“There is strong and factual evidence that agro-ecology systems, as nature-based solution, are superior to external input industrial and commercial agriculture, and are highly productive, highly sustainable, empower women, create jobs, engage youth, provide greater autonomy, build climate resilience, and multiple social, cultural and environmental benefits for women, youth and men in both rural and urban communities.”

Place task before African govts

Following the challenges before African countries, the activists call on governments in the continent to, as a matter of urgency, transform the current industrial agriculture by prioritising agro-ecology strongly at the centre of their climate change actions and create the enabling environment through policy and public support programmes for the scale up and scale out of agro-ecology as an alternative, nature-based solution to the failed industrial and commercial model of agriculture and food production system;

Prioritise and place stronger emphasis for climate change adaptation in NDCs, whiles unanimously demanding of the industrialised countries to do their fair share of climate action in providing adequate climate finance for the implementation of the continent’s national adaptation and mitigation plans;

“Enforcing existing environmental laws and implementing policies and programmes to halt the rate of environmental degradation, restoration of degraded areas and conserve the ecological systems;

Support women farmers with less labour-intensive innovations and technologies that reduces the burden of women and girls unpaid care work, while also contributing to mitigation measures of climate change;

Provide adequate budgetary support with specific targets for women and translate national policies into local actions for effective implementation; challenge false solutions being put forth by actors with commercial interest which will further entrench inequality within our citizenry, “as we remain deeply skeptical of false solutions such as climate smart agriculture, carbon markets, geo-engineering and recognise that climate insurance has a limited role to play in building resilience” and

Facilitate and support non-market approaches to climate action because carbon markets are dangerous distractions from developing real people-centred solutions to the climate crisis.

“As discussions around countries on climate pledges—known in UN jargon as Nationally Determined Contributions, NDCs—is featuring prominently in the deliberations of African climate actions, we hope to see countries taking a balanced and fair approach to adaptation and mitigation, and prioritising their finance, programmes and policies appropriately by placing a far stronger emphasis on prioritising the adaptation needs of vulnerable citizens, and we are urging governments in Africa to use the Africa Climate Week to announce their efforts on their National Adaptation Plans, NAPs,” they concluded.

Roll call

Signatories to the statement include ActionAid Ghana; ActionAid Nigeria; Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa, AFSA; African Biodiversity Network, ABN; ERA/FoEN; Corporate Accountability; Vision for Alternative Development, Ghana; African Centre for Biodiversity, ACB; Association Ouest Africaine pour le Développement de la Pêche Artisanale, ADEPA; Biodiversity and Biosafety Coalition of Kenya, BIBA, and 35 other CSOs.

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