By NATASHA MHANGO
MOST agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa is rain-fed, meaning that agriculture is sensitive to climate change.
However, as effects of climate change become more apparent, the urgency to act and find remedial measures is becoming inevitable.
But what is saddening to note is that even though Africa’s contribution to climate change is minimal in comparison to developed industrialised countries, the impact will be greater on the Third World continent.
Furthermore, most of Africa’s agricultural practices are carried out by small scale rural farmers who are dependent on agriculture for their household income and food security.
Scientific research has predicted that a third of the population in Southern Africa live in drought stricken areas and more people will be at risk of season water shortages due to climate change.
According to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, (UNFCCC), adaptation refers to adjustments in ecological, social and economic systems in response to actual or expected climate stimuli and their effects or impacts.
One key adjustment that is being advocated for in most African countries-Zambia included-is the adaptation of climate smart agriculture.
Climate smart agriculture is an approach to identify agricultural production systems that can best respond to the impacts of climate change without further depleting reserves of soil and water.
It is a technique that will help transform agricultural systems to become resilient to climate change, therefore enhance agricultural sustainability and food security.
Of growing concern is the slow adaptation rate of climate smart agricultural practices among small scale farmers.
According to Nnyaladazi Batisani of the Botswana Institute for Technology Research and Innovation, policy reform is the first step towards to an integrated approach to enhancing the adaptation rate of climate smart agriculture among small scale farmers.
Professor Batisani said that policy reform is critical because policies are determinant of where resources are channelled.
He said this in his presentation at the recent Regional Climate Smart Agriculture Policy Dialogue on climate smart agriculture policies in selected Southern African countries.
“National policies should be aligned with one another. They should not conflict one another. Policy coherence can create an enabling environment for climate smart agriculture,” Prof Batisani said.
The two-day Regional Policy Dialogue was facilitated by the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRAP) under the theme “Creating an Enabling Environment for Scaling-Up Climate Smart Agriculture”
FANRPAN is an autonomous stakeholder policy research, analysis and implementation network.
It was established with the aim to provide independent evidence to inform policy harmonization a regional level.
Climate Smart Agriculture consultant Professor David Osiru attended the conference
He echoed Prof Batisani’s sentiments on the need for policy reform adding that coherent policies can enable better coordination among agricultural stakeholders and policy makers.
“Farmers are aware of climate smart agricultural practices such as conservation agriculture but because climate smart agriculture messages are not coordinated, farmers are confused,” Prof Osiru said.
Coherence of policies on global change can help mobilise consensus among agricultural stakeholders in their strategies towards climate change adaptation.
Currently, the only recognised global policy is the Kyoto Protocol of 1997 which came into force in 2005.
The Kyoto Protocol is a legally binding agreement that compels industrialised countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.
However,developing countries have since expressed concern at the slow pace at which industrialised developed countries are living up to the commitment period of the Protocol.
In this regard, some developing countries see the Kyoto Protocol as an inefficient policy towards climate change adaptation.
In fact, it was in November 2013 when the G77 and China that is a coalition of 77 developing countries and China walked out of the Warsaw COP19 conference after developing and developed countries failed to reach an agreement on demands by developing countries to be compensated by developed countries for the impact of climate change events.
However, developed countries argued to defer the discussion of compensation to the 2015 negotiations.
As such, the G77 and China stalled negations by walking out.
It is therefore, inevitable for individual countries and continents to aggressively establish their own individual national and regional policies aimed at scaling up climate change adaptation and climate smart agriculture in particular.
Establishing efficient polices in that sphere would require interactive participation of influential stakeholders at all levels of society.
Professor Absalom Manyatsi is a lecturer at the University of Swaziland.
He said religious movements have proved to be very influential in Africa and can therefore, be important stakeholders in the dissemination of climate smart agriculture information in various communities.
Prof Manyatsi said effective policies were born from interactive and participatory involvement of all appropriate stakeholders in policy formulation.
Some of these appropriate stakeholders include scientists and researchers.
“Scientists must engage in evidence-based research which can enable appropriate climate smart agriculture policy formulation” Professor Manyatsi said.
FANRPAN Board chairperson Argent Chuula, said that with three months before the 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) of the UNFCCC, the Regional Policy Dialogue had an opportunity to establish clear recommendations for the African Group of Negotiations to take with them to the COP21 Conference that would be held in Paris in November 2015.
“It is my hope that the recommendations should relate to: favourable policies for CSA, innovations and technology transfer for CSA-Best ways of communicating CSA science to policy makers and farmers,” Mr Chuula said.
Considering the Zambian context with regard to coherent climate smart policies, the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock is well aware of the need to adopt and implement appropriate policies to enhance effective responses to climate change.
Agriculture and Livestock Minister Given Lubinda, acknowledged the fact that with climate resilient agricultural policies, Africa would efficiently adapt to climate change and live up to its potential to be food secure.
Mr Lubinda commended FANRPAN’s facilitation of policy dialogue and stressed the need for participatory approach towards climate smart policy formulation.
“Recent experiences and studies on climate smart agriculture show that there were no one size fits all solutions; climate smart agriculture practices need to respond to different local conditions, to geography, weather, the natural resource base and take into consideration the social dynamics,” Mr Lubinda said.
It is a sobering thought to have farmers take the lead in calling for evidence-based policies particularly at this time when the African continent is ravaged by poverty and the hazardous effects of climate change.
Generally, it is being accepted as a fact that the greatest threat facing humanity is climate change.
It cannot be reversed and as such a well articulated and coherent effort is urgently needed in responding to this harsh reality.
In the words of American Barack Obama speech on America’s Clean Power Plan, there is no such a thing as being too late when it comes to climate change. — NAIS