Sep 8, 2022 | Blog

Accelerating Climate Action through Food Systems Part I

Kicking off Day 2 of the summit this exciting session looked to address the topic of accelerating climate action through food systems – both from a strategic/policy driven position and from a regenerative/hands on technical perspective. The Speakers sought to explore what could be done to mitigate the risks of climate change through policies, action and investment. What followed was an insightful and thorough discussion about how the farming community can move to resilience farming by embracing regenerative agriculture to promote increased soil health, production and climate change driven agricultural development.

Ms. Barbara Stinton,President of The World Food Prize Foundation began by offering some background and context for the session. The state of the Climate Africa (2020) report highlighted that Africa is at an inflection point: The compounded impact of political instability, the pandemic, pest outbreaks and economic crises, all of which are exacerbated by the impacts of climate variability, were the key drivers in a significant increase in food insecurity. The report suggested that most African countries will enter unprecedentedly hot climates earlier this century than the generally wealthier, higher latitude countries, thus highlighting the urgency for adaptation measures. She praised the GoGettaz finals from the previous day, highlighting the positive work being done by the youth to overcome the challenges the continent is facing. She went on to explain the role The World Food Prize Foundation plays in rewarding this innovation, ‘Each year we recognize tremendous innovators… these people have enabled large numbers of people to escape hunger. We face an urgent need for action now. Accelerate resilient food systems and elevate exceptional achievement in food security.’

The primary objective of the morning’s session was to exchange thinking, best practice and policy dimension. The hope being that through the free exchange of ideas policy makers and thinkers can contribute to climate change adaptation, resilience building and assess investment opportunities that can secure climate-resilient development in Africa, including climate smart agriculture, hydrometeorological infrastructure and early warning systems to prepare for escalating high-impact events.

There followed a panel discussion where Mr. Ibrahima Cheikh-Diong, UN-ASG and Director-General, Africa Risk Capacity Group spoke about the problem of climate change, what needs to happen, and challenged the recommendations to make Africa more resilient.  He suggested that by profiling the risks Africa will be better prepared to tackle them in a proactive and positive manner, ‘We can’t address our problems if we don’t understand the scale of them.’

Mr. Charles Karangwa, Regional Lead for Forests, Landscapes and Livelihoods Programme for Africa at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) spoke about how to tap into scientific communities for Earth positive solutions. He highlighted the devastating impact of losing top soil to climate change, in some areas as much as 60 tonnes per hectare, although he was quick to point out that progress was being made. Their projections show that if Sub-Saharan Africa embrace the opportunities for proper crop management the benefits could include reducing soil erosion by as much as 30%.

Mr. Andy Jarvis, Director for the Future of Food, Bezos Earth Fund detailed what the fund was focused on, conservation, restoration and food systems. He spoke about how philanthropic money could help in way that conventional investment may not, by being vision driven, taking risks and being more far sighted by taking the longer view.

A second panel comprising Hon. Olegario dos Anjos Banze, Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mozambique who told the panel about how they are adopting a unified approach across the country but on a local level. This has included new seeds and fertilizers that are more robust than previous iterations to ensure they can better weather the challenges thrown up by climate change.

Ms. Sara Mbago-Bhunu, Director East and Southern Africa Division, IFAD and Commissioner, Commission on Sustainable Agriculture Intensification (COSAI) talked about the need to engage with green finance and development investment and how to make that attractive to those outside the agri-bubble.

Mr. Enock Chikava, Acting Director, Agricultural Development, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation highlighted the need to focus on smallholder agriculture, rather than seeing it as ‘farming is affecting climate but rather climate is affecting livelihoods’. He remained optimistic about the global community’s ability to co-ordinate their efforts however, highlighting the work the Foundation has already done and where their focus will be in the near future.

Mr. Santiago Alba-Corral, Director, Climate Resilient Food Programs, IDRC intervened and cautioned the need for robust policy and specifically the ‘don’t forget the don’t harm policy’ whereby they sought to ensure that policies didn’t have unintended consequences and encouraged diversity and inclusion to be at the heart of the changes necessary to thrive and overcome and adapt to the challenges the farming communities are facing.

Dr. Naoko Ishii, Executive Vice President, Director for Center for Global Commons, University of Tokyo, Japan finished the session with the buoyant statement, ‘the good news is that there is a growing interest in investing in nature.’ Thus resulting in better reporting, better data and greater investment.

Accelerating Climate Action through Food Systems Part II

Technical Session

After a short break, the second session began with the moderator Chris Mitchell, MD & Partner, BCG Group, Kenya introducing Keynote speaker Dr. Michael Misiko, Africa Agriculture Director, The Nature Conservancy, who addressed the need for technical solutions with farmers across the African continent being challenged to increase the resilience of their crops, farms, and livelihoods in the face of accelerating environmental degradation and challenging trade links. He stated that for change to happen ‘we can’t stay within ideologies’ and we need to follow the science, a unified approach whilst necessary also required that approach to be adaptable as what may work in one area may not be applicable elsewhere.

Balancing food and nutritional security, income stability, and a positive relationship with the natural world presents a compelling challenge, but a refreshed approach to how farmers use and think about crop cultivation may offer a path to true resilience and prosperity.

Regenerative agriculture recognizes that farmers live in harmony with their farms, and that the health of their cropping conditions is tantamount to the health of their crops. Offering a pragmatic framework of actions, from crop diversification, to agroforestry, and cover cropping, regenerative agricultural interventions offer farmers a broad spectrum of resilience outcomes, from hardier crops, reduced water intensification, and manifold biodiversity benefits. But chief among these outcomes – and central to their realization – is soil health, as was touched upon in the first session. Building and preserving the health of soils provides immediate and long-term benefits to farmers and the food system, integrating regenerative practices as a first principle while acknowledging and championing the natural technologies contained within soils as the reactive area for healthy crops, predictable yields, and even soil-carbon sequestration.

There followed a series of panel discussions covering a range of very specific, targeted technical solutions although on a more human level

Ms. Winnie Onyango, Associate Director, PlantVillage, Kenya praised the team she worked with for the innovations that were occurring. Specifically, the team’s engagement with youth.

After a detailed and fascinating pair of sessions, the feeling was one of cautious optimism. By understanding and recognizing the scale of the challenges it will be easier to surmount them, the skills and abilities that are being brought to bear on the problem, the will to change, to innovate, to invent and adapt, to inspire the next generation and galvanise the efforts of the entire farming eco-system was palpable.

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