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Climate policy failing on the ground
December 24, 2017, 2:56 pm

Climate change has a huge impact on people’s lives around the world. In Africa, the effect of climate change often manifests itself in the form of droughts or floods that wrack havoc on agriculture and fuel food shortages and social upheavals.

In Malawi, recent droughts are likely to result in around 1.5 million girls, some as young as 13, facing the possibility of an early marriage because their families cannot feed them. In East Africa, nearly, 20 million people are at risk of dying from starvation, in part due to climate change-related drought. According to Famine Early Warning Systems Network, 76 million people across 45 countries will likely face food shortages and need food aid, partly due to issues connected to the changing climate. The problem is set to worsen in 2018.

At the recent United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 23) stakeholders, including governments, non-governmental organizations, aid agencies, researchers and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) shared agendas, initiatives and achievements aimed at mitigating climate change and its impacts. Among the initiatives recommended were scientifically proven climate smart agricultural practices, improved drought tolerant seed varieties, mobile apps that deliver timely weather and other climate related advisory services to farmers, and insurance schemes to help cover losses and damage that arise due to climate change, as well as the adoption of soil health building practices that enhance the ability of soils to sequester carbon.

Yet, while the impact of these initiatives has been recorded and documented, the situation keeps worsening on the ground. There is clearly a disconnect between the lofty agendas that are being offered and what is clearly needed and available to farmers.

For starters, many of the farmers lack the resources needed to use and implement the solutions suggested, including land, financial capital and labor. Even among those who have the resources, there is often an absence of the knowledge and required skills to correctly implement these game-changing climate innovations and practices.

To overcome these challenges, stakeholders need to get down to the grass-root level and interact with the farmers for whom the solutions are being recommended. They need to find ways to ensure that farmers know about these novel solutions and, more importantly, know how to implement them effectively. There is clearly a need for capacity-building through training and demonstrations to help farmers implement the solutions.

One organization that is doing commendable service in this regard is Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), a global partnership that unites organizations engaged in research for a food-secured future. CGIAR has developed innovative outreach strategies to help accelerate the adoption of climate-smart agricultural technologies and practices to farmers in East Africa.

Through its Farms of the Future Approach, CGIAR links farmers to other farmers that are already experiencing climate change and are actively implementing climate smart technologies and practices. Such linkages create peer to peer learning. In addition, farmers that learn about these practices from their peers are further expected to communicate and disseminate the climate smart practices to their peers. Indeed, peer-to-peer learning, also known as social learning, has proven to be an effective way to increase the adoption of new agricultural technologies. Such innovative approaches should be further developed and disseminated to other farming areas, while also providing farmers with incentives to encourage them in implementing these innovative climate change mitigating agendas.

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