Climate stress: A threat to African dev’t -- Montpellier Panel report

September 29, 2015
Source: Kizito Cudjoe | B&FT Online | Ghana
Climate stress: A threat to African dev’t -- Montpellier Panel report

Major gaps in investment in climate adaptation and mitigation strategies for smallholder farmers of Africa will hold back development in the region, says a new report issued by the Montpellier Panel of experts in agriculture and development.

The report, The Farms of Change: African Smallholders Responding to an Uncertain Climate Future, cites insufficient finance as one of the main constraints to implementing climate change adaptation and mitigation projects in Africa. Between 2010 and 2050, the annual cost for adaptation to climate change in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) will be at least US$18billion and up to US$50billion for the entire continent.

Yet the level of financing currently reaching African countries is paltry, according to the report. Of the US$34billion pledged through various climate funds, SSA received just US$2.3billion between 2003 and 2013 -- of which only 45% was allocated to adaptation projects.

Currently, Nigeria and South Africa are the only countries that have received support for developing solar and wind power through the Clean Technology Fund (CTF).

The report calls for donors and government to boost investment, to avoid problems that would have catastrophic results on African development -- such as major food shortages due to a possible rise in mean temperatures faster than the global average, which could lead to agricultural losses between 2% to 7% by 2100; increase in child malnutrition as high as 20% as a result of climate change; unplanned migration; food price hikes; and exacerbated poverty among others.

The report advocates for this funding gap to be met through public and private resources, but allowing local governments to allocate funds according to their need. It analyses the finance options currently available to smallholders from multilateral funding mechanisms, as well as schemes such as carbon markets.

As the United Nations climate talks in Paris edge closer, and more developed countries reveal their pledges for combatting climate change, the report outlines the importance of making sufficient finance available for African countries to cope with climate change.

“Progress made in the last two decades to combat hunger and poverty in Africa will be irrelevant if action is not taken on climate change,” hinted Professor Sir Gordon Conway, Director of the London-based group Agriculture for Impact that convenes the Montpellier Panel.

He further said: “African smallholders cannot escape poverty unless they are equipped to adapt to a changing climate; and this requires serious, large-scale investments”.

The report advocates the wide adoption of Sustainable Intensification (SI), which seeks to produce more food while ensuring the natural resource base on which agriculture depends is sustained. This can include, for example, nitrogen-fixing crops that improve soil quality or the introduction of drought-tolerant maize varieties.

The report notes that some interventions will require investment by the private sector, such as for the construction of large- and small-scale irrigation systems. At the same time, it argues that smallholder farmers can also be agents of change, and contribute to lower global carbon emissions that cause climate change.

“When given the right options and incentives, farmers can drive sustainable agricultural development that builds resilience to disasters and reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions,” opined Dr. Ousmane Badiane, Africa Director of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).


Dr. Camilla Toulmin, former Director of the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and Montpellier Panel co-chair, also stated that “Climate change is a business opportunity for new technologies and job-creation in climate sensitive sectors, not only in agriculture but also in water and energy”.


Among the recommendations for donor and government action set out by the Montpellier Panel in this new report was a call for ‘investment in better weather monitoring, and research to understand the responses of different crops and livestock breeds to drought, floods and heat stress, and improving estimates of the number of people that will suffer from food and nutrition insecurity to plan resilience-building strategies’.


Other recommendations include ‘helping smallholders to reduce and offset GHG emissions and investing in interventions that sequester carbon into the soil, such as agroforestry systems and better land use management practices; improving climate finance mechanisms so that African governments can better access funding that significantly benefits smallholders, and strengthening political leadership, functioning markets and regulatory instruments in order to design and implement adaptation and mitigation strategies that benefit smallholder farmers.’


The report emerged as part of Climate Week in New York, as the Montpellier Panel outlined priorities for investment to protect Africa’s food supply and reduce emissions.