By Nadine Valat
Africa’s potential to tackle the climate crisis is immense, but largely untapped. Just think, we preserve the Congo Basin’s tropical rainforest – the second largest in the world – and its rainfall regenerates land and rehydrates parched soils in countries as far away as Ethiopia. Under dense tropical forest canopies in Côte d’Ivoire, zero-deforestation cocoa production generates income for smallholder farmers, protects biodiversity, and reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In Sudan, acacia trees provide income for men and women who harvest gum from the trees’ stems and branches, and at the same time slow desertification.
Africa’s agriculture sector can become a carbon sink that takes carbon out of the atmosphere and stores it in soil and biomass.
Through its partnership with the Green Climate Fund (GCF) – the world’s largest dedicated fund for climate action – the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has helped raise over USD 68 million for projects like this in Côte d’Ivoire, the Republic of the Congo, and the Republic of the Sudan that build climate resilience, reduce GHG emissions, and spur sustainable growth.
Increasing access to climate finance can transform Africa’s agriculture sector, shifting it from farming practices that drive deforestation and land degradation, to low-carbon and climate-resilient food production that supports ecosystem services, improves food security, and ensures well-being.
Agriculture and Livelihoods are Deeply Entwined in Africa
Agriculture is a critical source of income in Africa, with 49 percent of the total employed population dependent on the sector for their livelihood. In fact, the continent has the world’s highest share of people employed in agriculture. Unfortunately, the sector also accounts for a large share of global GHG emissions, due to agricultural expansion, slash-and-burn practices, and charcoal and biofuel production, among other factors. The African continent contributed to about 15 percent of the world’s total GHG emissions from agriculture between 2005 and 2014; on the whole, the agriculture, forestry and other land use (AFOLU) sector accounts for almost a quarter of the world’s GHG emissions.
By catalysing investments in low-emission, climate-resilient food systems, Africa’s agriculture sector can transition away from being a major emitter to becoming a carbon sink that takes carbon out of the atmosphere and stores it in soil and biomass.
Helping the most vulnerable adapt to the impacts of climate change is critical. Rural farmers’ livelihoods – and the ecosystems they rely on – are threatened by increasing temperatures, changing rainfall patterns, and prolonged periods of drought. Increased access to climate finance gives countries the means to reaffirm and meet the commitments laid out in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) for climate action, to achieve the Paris Agreement and the broader Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Addressing a high-level event on climate finance on 20 May 2021, FAO’s Deputy Director-General Maria Helena Semedo stressed that “Resilience against multiple threats, including climate change, is a key prerequisite for sustainable development, in particular when it comes to the challenge of feeding over two billion Africans by 2050.”
GCF Resources are a Catalyst for Climate Action
Accelerating and scaling up access to climate finance can turn challenges into opportunities, helping countries to lay the foundations for mitigation and adaptation action and to raise their level of ambition for climate action. For example, as a Delivery Partner of the Green Climate Fund’s Readiness Programme, FAO helps countries secure “readiness” funds to build baseline data and capacity for high-impact mitigation and adaptation projects.
To date, FAO’s rapidly expanding GCF portfolio includes 13 readiness projects in Africa, worth about USD 9 million. Almost two-thirds of these grants are directed at Least Developed Countries (LDCs), and two (valued at about USD 4.5 million) are helping Kenya and Sudan strengthen their respective National Adaptation Plans (NAPs).
Investing in Africa’s Potential: The Way Forward
African countries are rising to the challenge of lowering GHG emissions and adapting to climate change, but they cannot do it without access to high-impact climate investments in agriculture.
FAO leverages its partnerships and expertise in food security and climate change to catalyse investments in climate-resilient agriculture that deliver socio-economic and environmental benefits and pave the way for low-emission development – absolute musts for a green recovery from COVID-19.
FAO’s growing pipeline of GCF projects in Africa is helping to: improve water management for greater food security; enhance climate resilience in agriculture, forestry and fisheries; and combat desertification by expanding the Great Green Wall – Africa’s flagship initiative to combat climate change and desertification and address food insecurity and poverty.
The COVID-19 pandemic has put the spotlight on our interconnectedness with nature and each other, revealing that global crises require collective action on a grand scale. As the Glasgow Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC COP 26) approaches in November 2021, leading actors are preparing to lay their innovative solutions for low-emission development on the table. Investing in Africa’s potential for sustainable agricultural growth is crucial for getting the continent and the world on track to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement: limiting global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels.
African counties are ready to take the next step towards a low-carbon, climate-resilient future, but they cannot take on the climate crisis alone: collective action is the only way forward.
The author of this guest article is Nadine Valat, FAO’s Green Climate Fund Team Leader.