Prospering despite climate change: A lot of ground covered. What stones have we left unturned?

Posted by Roxanna Samii on 26 January 2011 on the IFAD Social Reporting blog 

The climate change breakout session of the Conference on New Directions for Smallholder Agriculture was based on (Director of IIED) Camilla Toulmin’s  paper “Prospering Despite Climate Change.”   I’ll use the sum-up by the session chair, IFAD’s Director of Environment and Climate, Elwyn Grainger-Jones, to run through the key points.

  • Urgency for action is growing: current science and emissions reductions commitments are taking us to a 4 degree Celsius average global temperature increase – with extremes of up to 10 degrees Celsius at the N. and S. Poles.  Also, science is increasingly telling us that the speed of change is increasing.  There will be limits to adaptation: some changes will be impossible to adapt to, some may be possible but too expensive to adapt to. Adaptation is not a cure: although from a livelihoods perspective some said it should be our first concern.   
  • Climate change is increasing the scale and the unpredictability of risk.  Camilla Toulmin stressed, the past is no longer a good guide to the future.  New risks are also appearing. Climate finance commitments need to be invested in research and technologies; info and communications tools; resource rights; bridging local and modern science; social infrastructure and learning; infrastructure like roads and storage; increasing market engagement and better governance…. to build resilience.
  • Nahu Senaye Araya, the former CEO of Nyala Insurance S.C. (Ethiopia)  explained how that company is offering weather risk insurance products (based on farmer demand, including livestock and crops) to smallholder clients through associations and unions.  He stressed that the unpredictability of climate made weather index-based insurance premiums (20% of insured sum) much more expensive than mixed insurance packages – health, fire, death (5% of insured sum).   He explained that it was difficult for Nyala to get reinsurance on international markets due to lack of experience with the product and also lack of country specific knowledge and data for use by international re-insurers.  He urged the development to stop the 1-year cycle of aid provision in favour of a 3 to 5 year cycle of support, including through subsidies to bring down premiums in the short run for smallholders.

  • Francesco Tubiello of GET-Carbon reminded us that agriculture’s window of opportunity in carbon markets in closing – and we must reach out to the negotiators to keep agriculture on the radar.  Given the increasing sums committed for climate change support, but the shifting allocation modalities, he suggested we need to concentrate efforts where both adaptation and mitigation can be achieved, especially where smallholders are concerned.  
  • Following on the “multiple wins imperative” Elwyn noted that – luckily – many of the sustainable intensification or eco-agriculture or landscape approaches (choose your term), such as conservation agriculture and agro-forestry, actually increase resilience and also reduce emissions as they reduce poverty and increase productivity.
  • Knowledge was a recurring theme both in terms of missing knowledge causing unpredictability and how knowledge and skills can build individual and community resilience under changing scenarios. Bioversity International’s Deputy Director General,  Kwesi Atta-Krah, pointed out “the genetic resources you have today may be useful not to you, but to another country in the future” and stressed support to preserving and exchanging genetic gene pools.  ICIMOD’s Dhrupad Chowdhury told us that indigenous communities in marginal and remote areas often employ the most diversified livelihood strategies and genetically robust crops – ready made for adaptation learning, and perhaps even “saleable”.   The lead author of IFAD’s Rural Poverty Report 2011 added from the floor that in addition to knowledge about planting and cropping techniques, pest management or new seed technologies, smallholders should also be provided with portable, intangible knowledge and skills to help them adapt and adopt new technologies as challenges and changes arise.

So much more was shared by the fantastic paper presenters, discussants and participants – migration issues, youth education as an investment for family-level resilience, MRV…  the 2 hours went by in a flash. Do you think something important is missing from the discussion?

Enabling agriculture and forestry to contribute to climate change responses

Summary of COP16 Joint Side Event by the organising committee of ARDD 2010

Cancunmesse, 6 Dec 2010. The organisers of Agriculture and Rural Development Day 2010 (ARDD 2010) and Forest Day 4 (FD4) jointly held an official COP16 side event. The purpose of the two-hour event was to feed outcomes from the two previous day into the UNFCCC negotiations in Cancun.  The side event opened with a short video capturing participants’ perspectives at ARDD 2010 and FD4. The video can be viewed at


Rodney Cooke, Director, Policy and Technical Advisory Division, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) chaired the side event. He introduced the two lead speakers as the rapporteurs from ARDD 2010 and FD4, respectively.

Lead speakers

Lindiwe Majele Sibanda, Chief Executive Officer and Head of Diplomatic Mission, Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN), spoke as rapporteur of ARDD 2010. She focussed on ARDD 2010’s six messages to the UNFCCC:

  1. More fast track financing to support agriculture is required
  2. Action on food security, nutrition and hunger must be part of agreements especially in AWG-LCA text
  3. An agricultural work program should be set up under SBSTA
  4. REDD+ must explicitly recognise the links between forestry and agriculture
  5. The synergies and opportunities for adaptation, and mitigation co-benefits must be recognized
  6. New or revised CDM and other mechanisms need to include agriculture and other land use changes

Ms. Sibanda closed on the need for partnerships and bridging the gaps. She emphasised that “There is no climate security without food security and no food security without climate security”.

Frances Seymour, Director, Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), spoke as rapporteur from FD4. FD4, with the slogan, “time to act” was marked by a sense of ugency. Forestry constituents are impatient to see REDD+ approved. The consequences of inaction could be grave. Ms. Seymour quoted John Ashton, who at FD4 emphasised that success on REDD+ is within our grasp. She noted that landscape approaches are required, though not all approaches to intensify agriculture result in reduced deforestation. While there was consensus on the need for an integrated approach, participants polled at FD4 revealed less appetite for REDD++ than at FD3 in Copenhagen, perhaps fearing a drag on hard fought momentum achieved to date.


Peter Holmgren, Director, Climate, Energy and Tenure Division, Natural Resources and Environment Department, FAO, emphasised that COP16 showed stronger recognition of the linkages between the agriculture, forestry and food security agendas. He said that the repective finance streams need to be linked. He noted that a healthy distance from the negotiations would be useful as ARD practitioners get on with developing intensified agriculture. He suggested that the two days, ARDD and FD, should be more strongly linked at future COPs.

Dyborn Chibonga, Chief Executive Officer, National Smallholder Farmers’ Association of Malawi (NASFAM), referred to climate change as a “runaway train”. He pointed to agriculture as where climate change and development intersect, and emphasised that negotiators must stop posturing, and become more flexible and statesman-like.

Mihir Kanti Majumder, Secretary, Environment and Forestry, Bangladesh, underscored the need for climate-smart agriculture that addresses both adaptation and mitigation. Effective solutions will require more investment in science.

Juergen Voegele, Director, Agriculture and Rural Development Department, The World Bank, identified agriculture as the only sector that will remove greenhouse gas emissions from the atmosphere, and said that it is impossible to protect forests as long as people are food insecure. He highlighted agriculture as an opportunity for addressing degraded lands, which occupy 25% of the world’s arable land. He also called for people-centred and country-led processes. He noted that few of the nearly $1 billion per day in agricultural subsidies are linked to addressing climate change.

The lead speakers joined the panel. 


Discussants from the floor raised several issues, including:

  • the need to put rural and indigenous people at the centre of our actions
  • the need to redirect agricultural subsidies
  • the need for life cycle analyses that capture the carbon cycles of food and agriculture
  • the importance of addressing bottlenecks and policy incoherence between forestry and agriculture departments and institutions
  • and, the need to influence markets that historically failed to properly capture the values of many natural resources and services


 Summarising the event, Rodney Cooke, IFAD, reiterated several key points:

  • Delivery of crucial poverty reduction targets and coping with climate change necessitate a focus on people, and especially rural people in view of the fundamental role of agriculture and land use
  • Agriculture should be addressed as both a victim of climate impacts and villain in terms of GHG emissions
  • The science and knowledge base is developing, more sharing and partnerships are necessary
  • We can deliver triple-win development solutions to poverty reduction, climate change, and food security through agriculture
  • Developing sustainable intensification in a changing climate will be a challenge, but we have a lot of proven approaches that we can and must act on now
  • Action needs to be taken at the community, national and global levels, with strong leadership from national leaders to foster inter-ministerial cooperation

Emphasising the importance of integrated landscape approaches, Dr. Cooke closed the side event by suggesting ARDD 2011 and FD5 at COP17 in Durban could join forces in a “landscape weekend.”

Cancún must be about more than climate change

This article by Wangari Maathai was first published in the Guardian UK, 26 Nov 2010 

In order to succeed, we need to think holistically and recognise how climate change, poverty and conflict are intertwined  history.

Twelve months ago I stood up in front of heads of state at the UN climate talks in Copenhagen and told them that they could not negotiate with the climate; they would have to negotiate with each other. And as leaders prepare to meet again in Cancún next week, I repeat my plea.

I have been attending UN conferences since 1976 and am now part of the millennium development goals advocacy group. In the past 30 years I have seen much to be proud of, and much for us to hang our heads at. At times when action has been needed, the world has responded. Other times we have not.

Negotiating an issue that has such a vast effect on our world is not easy, and governments know that negotiations are as much about how countries interact as they are about what they agree. There is a history of accidental and deliberate misunderstanding in climate negotiations that has left deep scars, but leaders must overcome this legacy of mistrust by building on common ground in a genuine, fair and trusting way that is based on mutual responsibility – to ourselves and to billions around the world.

I believe in the ability of humanity to come together in the face of seemingly impossible difficulties. Finding a way to rise to the challenge of climate change is not easy. But it is possible. We have the knowledge to deliver – the cost of low-carbon technology is falling, our understanding of how climate change will affect our lives is improving. The UN advisory group on climate finance has shown that we can generate the $100bn (£64bn) a year promised to tackle climate change. Now we must work together to make these possibilities a reality.

It is true that no delegate leaves a conference with a perfect document, but last year in Copenhagen we caught a glimpse of the potential we have if we tackle this global crisis together. For the first time, 115 countries recognised the scientific case for restricting the rise in global temperatures to 2C. For the first time ever, all the major emitters of the world accepted their moral responsibility to reduce their emissions and committed to build trust and transparency. And for the first time ever, we set out our interconnectedness, with developed countries offering to help the poorest countries to protect their people from climate change and to find a path to low-carbon sustainable development.

We appreciate the fact that an international agreement alone will not deliver the answer – words and promises mean nothing without action. Trust is a two-way road and outside of Cancún, governments must do what they have promised: take concrete action to reduce their emissions; deliver finance and work together to make low-carbon development a reality; and protect those least able to cope with the impact of climate change.

If we are to help steer the world through this uncertainty, we must be clear that climate change, though important, is only one part of the puzzle. If we truly want to tackle climate change, poverty and conflict we need to think holistically. We need to, as Ban Ki-moon said at the launch of the UN global sustainability panel, “think big, connecting the dots between poverty, energy, food, water, environmental pressure and climate change”.

Focusing on only one dot means that we lose sight of the bigger picture. Water is a timeless example. We know that the impact of climate change will be felt through water – too much, too little or the wrong type. And improving basic services such as water sanitation and hygiene is vital to development, reducing child deaths and improving education. There are 884 million people who don’t have safe drinking water and 2.6 billion who don’t have somewhere to go to the toilet. The floods in Pakistan are a dramatic example of how destructive water can be, yet how essential it is to life. Reducing disaster risk, and providing the most vulnerable with safe water and sanitation is as much about building their resilience to climate change as it is about justice, equality and development.

And we saw in 2008 just what can happen when we fail to connect those dots – climate change, oil prices, protectionism and global economics collided to push food prices up and hang a cloud of starvation over the heads of millions of people.

So these negotiations are about more than climate change – we need to find reason to trust each other so that we can find a new way of working together to tackle the connected global challenges we face. Our failure to link these issues affects us all. In Cancún and beyond, the governments of the world have to learn to work together for our common future. Our planet is finite, our fates are intertwined, our choice is clear – stand together or fall divided

Official COP16 side event – Enabling agriculture and forestry to contribute to climate change responses

Bonn, 26 Nov.  The organiser of Agriculture and Rural Development Day 2010 together with those of Forest Day 4 will hold an official COP16 side event to feed the outcomes of their events into the negotiations of COP16. Drawing on these outcomes, major international organisations, donors, farmers, civil society and the private sector will outline concrete options for more integrated approaches among sustainable agriculture, forestry and climate change for food security . More…


ARD Day 2010 – What are your expectations?

In the run-up to Agriculture and Rural Development Day 2010, the event organizers want to know what registered participants expect from this year’s  event  in terms of possible achievements.
What are the key themes and outputs for you?  Which  messages do the COP negotiators need to hear? Will the COP16 climate negotiations achieve success? – These are only few suggestions to express your views.

Please post your comments, questions, and views by commenting on this post.

As background, the organizers had set the following aims for ARDD 2010:

  • Bring agriculture sector adaptation and mitigation strategies to the forefront of the global climate treaty negotiations
  • Demonstrate clearly that agriculture is where climate change, food security, and development intersect.
  • Inform the climate change negotiations and advocate for a COP decision including agriculture — and at the same time looking beyond the negotiations.

Brazil aspires to be partner, not donor

This article by Lanre Akinola appeared in ‘This is Africa – A Global Perspective’ on July, 28, 2010.

Brazil is actively sharing its experience in agriculture with Africa, and there are hopes that this might be a critical contribution towards realising the continent’s elusive ‘green revolution’

Ever since former USAID director William Gaud coined the term “Green Revolution” in 1968 to describe the technological breakthroughs that transformed the agricultural fortunes of India in the 1960s and 1970s, development efforts have sought to recreate an elusive green revolution in Africa.

Africa is the only region in the world where overall food security is deteriorating. It has gone from being a net exporter of food in the 1960s, to a net importer today. Only 6 percent of the continent’s total farmland is irrigated, and population growth currently outstrips annual increases in food production.

To address these challenges, an increasing number of countries are looking to Brazil, which has experienced its very own, more recent, green revolution. Under the banner of “South-South” cooperation, trade and political cooperation between Brazil and Africa have soared under the presidency of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Keen to share its experience in mastering tropical agriculture, there are high hopes that Brazil may offer some solutions to unlocking the agricultural potential of a continent that many believe will be vital to ensuring future global food security.

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How to beat chronic hunger in Africa in the face of climate change

This piece by Lindiwe Sibanda of FANRPAN and Farming First appeared on the Thomson Reuters Alternet on August 26, 2010.

Next week, Namibia is playing host to the annual Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) Regional Food Security Policy Dialogue, where over 200 policymakers, farmers, agricultural product dealers, scientists and non-governmental organisations from across Africa and the world will gather to address African priorities on climate change and its impacts on food security, agricultural development and natural resource management.

Stagnant agricultural productivity is a constant battle in Africa, exacerbated by limited access to agricultural inputs, to water, to markets and to knowledge. The impacts of climate change add yet another obstacle in front of African farmers who are seeking to sustain themselves and their families.

Agriculture must be viewed as a vital force in our global mission to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), especially since the World Bank has calculated that agricultural growth is at least twice as effective at reducing poverty than growth originating in any other sector.

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The race to feed the planet: Why we need a new Green Revolution to stop hunger

This four-part article appeared in the English-language version of the German news magazine Der Spiegel on Sept. 20, 2010. Read part one below. Click here to read parts two-four online. Click here to read the article in German.

World leaders are meeting in New York this week to discuss progress on the UN’s Millennium Development Goals. The world’s nations have failed miserably in addressing one of the main goals, the fight against hunger. Researchers believe that small farmers, not large-scale farms, are the key to feeding the planet.

Food was scarce for Dorca Mutua last summer. No rain had fallen for months. Mutua, 35, watched as first her calf and then her cow died. “There was no more grass,” the farmer says. What little she was able to coax from the ground was only enough to provide her family with one meager meal of corn porridge a day.

In 2004, Mutua had moved with her eight children and her mother-in-law to Vololo, about 200 kilometers (125 miles) east of the Kenyan capital Nairobi, where she bought two hectares (five acres) of land. Her husband had died, and land in their home village was too expensive.

Mutua had little knowledge of agriculture and no money for expensive tools or modern seeds. Irrigation was out of the question. When the nearby river ran dry — and it ran dry often — Mutua set out with a donkey and a few canisters and walked to the next river, which was 20 kilometers away. She went there and back every two days.

She tried everything. She constructed terraces to help keep moisture in the soil, with no success. She tried planting trees to retain water, but in vain. Three small mango trees on her plot of land have borne no fruit and are slowly withering.

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