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Amb. Robin Renee Sanders

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Africa's Food Security: Why Durban Climate Change Conference Is Important

Posted: 12/06/11 08:36 PM ET

A FEEEDS/FE3DS blogspot

The Durban Climate Change (CC) meeting of the Conference of Parties' 17th Session and 7th Conference of Paris (better known as COP 17 & CM7) is a follow on from Cancun (see 12/2010 Africa Post, TAP - bit.ly/cccancun) which did not move a lot of things forward on key environmental issues ranging from CO2 emissions (average CO2-eq per person is about 4tons per year), carbon sequestration (carbon credits), land and water resource management.* (http://bit.ly/carfoot)

The important fact that the climate change conference is taking place on the African continent for the first time should not just boil down to its mere presence in Durban, but just like key sub-Saharan African economies are emerging, Africa's emerging voice on climate change policy is vital to a number of future developmental areas, not least of which is food security -- including all of its pillars from food production to improving the continent's ability to feed itself and using renewables to spur better agricultural energy use. However, do Africa's agriculture, environment and energy ministers talk to each other? And, why aren't more agricultural ministers included in the climate change discussion and vice versa? This needs to happen, but it is not -- at least not regularly or in a comprehensive manner.

Most experts recognize that both food security and climate change are affecting the continent more than any other region of the world. The food security-climate change linkage for Africa hopefully will be heavily on the table in Durban as these symbiotic impact indicators need to be addressed together. Food security specialists from development organizations and civil society (CSOs) to policy makers need to build climate change solutions into their programs. Africa climate change leaders and activists need not forget that the lack of progress on key environmental issues will continue to affect the Continent's progress to resolve its food security challenges.

What are some of linkages and innovative ways to address these linkages? There are a number of positives noted below, which need to be more broadly implemented with country-specific adaptation on top of the need to create more new solutions. Some of the smart linkages that are being made connecting the symbiotic relationship between food security and climate change include:

-- Renewable options for water such as wind or solar-powered drip irrigation, including considering storage of power gained through battery innovative techniques like those being used by companies like AES in West Virginia;**

--Hybrid seeds that help crops withstand climate stresses such as drought, which can also lead to new usages for traditional crops such as protein-enhanced cassava (I have visited donor-supported agribusinesses in Kano, Nigeria that adds cow peas to enhance protein in cassava flour);

--Localize agribusiness supply chain by using small farm holders or cooperative crops, reducing transport energy, and manufacturing costs; and,

-- Climate change-smart agricultural production, which helps reduce the impact on the environment such as bio-char (the process of burning plant-based remnants and making charcoal that is then used as renewable fertilizer in places like Congo, and Benin's Songhai Integrative Farms). The Congo project also obtains carbon credits on CO2 emissions which also further helps overall energy challenges -- not just in the country but over the long term for our global community.

These are just a few examples of the things being done that demonstrate the importance of focusing more on Africa's symbiotic food security-climate change relationship. These global impact indicators -- food security and climate change (see 2/3/11 TAP blogspot - http://bit.ly/AF-Food) -- should be addressed together to better identify solution-driven processes, usages, and outcomes, like those noted above, that respond simultaneously to the challenges of both these issues for Africa's future and that will assist the people of Africa have a better enabling environment for overall development. African women small farmers from 10 countries calling themselves "Rural Women Assembly," demonstrated in Durban December 3, 2011, on just this point -- linking the affects of climate change on their ability to feed their families.***

What to Do?

The UN General Assembly this year called for improvement in sustainable energy by making 2012 the "International Year of Sustainable Energy," with the goal of providing access to modern forms of energy, particularly for emerging markets and the developing world by 2030. But, if we do not improve our current efforts not only will this "sustainability" goal not be meet for Africa, but the food security-climate change symbiotic link will continue to be exacerbated as Africa's population is expected to reach 1.9 billion by 2030, and 2 billion by 2050.**** Modern forms of energy use (some already noted above) must be link to addressing food security solutions.

Thus, we need to be more Food Security-Climate Change Smart through innovation, Africa-focused research and development like what is being done at Ghana's new bio tech facility, and by expanding the discussion circle so that both agriculture and environment policy makers, CSOs and development entities begin to come together and share in the same international, regional, community, and village fora to address these two global impact indicators.

* See carbon footprint details @ http://bit.ly/carfoot
**Energy Now 11/13/11
*** AFP 12/3/2011 - Joe, Hood
****2050 population estimates from "This is Africa," Sept/Oct edition 2011.

 

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