Durban, 5 Dec. — Negotiators at the 17th Conference of Parties owe it to the world’s more than seven billion people to deliver a deal with a work plan for agriculture, a sector that is expected to be the worst affected by climate change.
Lindiwe Majele Sibanda, CEO of Food Agriculture Natural Resources Policy Advocacy Network told participants at the Agriculture and Rural Development Day (ARRD) event on the sidelines of COP 17 that what was need was a work programme for agriculture. She said she hoped that South Africa’s minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Tina Joemat Patterson would take up the cause.
“We believe she will send the message to the right messenger to make sure we deliver a deal that will talk to farmers, the private sector and everybody who needs food to survive,” Sibanda said.
On behalf of a grouping of agriculture and advocacy organisations, Sibanda presented an open letter to Patterson calling for the inclusion of agriculture as an adaptation approach in the text to be agreed on by climate change negotiators. The groups have warned that COP 17 should be the show time for agriculture, which has been repeatedly taken off the agenda in two previous climate change negotiations.
“The turnout for COP 17 has been overwhelming and we believe we are on the right track,” said Sibanda. “This is a sign of commitment and sign of more ambassadors for our message that we are presenting to the minister to take to the boys and girls upstairs.”
Cash for crops
A work programme for agriculture is a blueprint for action that agriculture groups, farmers and development actors believe will unlock the cash to help agriculture, on which millions of smallholder farmers globally depend for their livelihoods, adapt to climate change.
In a firmly worded letter, the 16 agricultural groups said farmers have demonstrated their resilience to producing food in difficult conditions by experimenting with options for achieving climate-change adaptation and mitigation through more sustainable crop production, livestock rearing and management of soils, water, fish, forests, agro forestry species, and other biodiversity.
“The most vulnerable regions of the world – developing countries – are disproportionately affected by climate change, despite contributing little to carbon emissions,” said the letter. “People in developing countries depend heavily on agriculture for their livelihoods, yet are increasingly challenged in their ability to produce sufficient food for their families and for markets.”
Climate smart agriculture, the letter said, will enable the transformation of agriculture, especially in Africa.
The letter further said that despite agriculture’s potential to provide a solution to climate change, it was underfunded. As a percentage of total investment, agriculture has dropped from 22 percent in 1980 to approximately six percent today.
The groups including the World Bank, CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), FANRPAN, the Global Forum on Agricultural Research, Southern African Confederation of Agricultural Unions (SACAU) and the World Farmers’ Organisation, said nothing should be short of a fair deal that includes agriculture.
Accepting the letter, Pettersson said agriculture, climate change and food security were inseparable. She cited the need to scale up and transform food and farming systems which need to be supported by
policy change and investment.
“There are people around the world who have come to Durban with a lot of expectations,” Pettersson said. “We would request that whoever goes to the negotiation and who even has the slightest influence on any negotiations will help us make our ambitions a reality and help us make climate smart agriculture a reality.”
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that 925 million people in the world go hungry every day. As the ballooning world population set to hit the 10 billion mark in 40 years will need food, the focus is on climate smart agriculture to deliver even though the sector has the lion’s share of global water use.
Speaking at the same event, Ireland’s former President Mary Robinson, who is presentation her foundation which bears her name, said innovation and progress on practical tools for climate smart agriculture are emerging but knowledge gaps underlie the need for more agriculture research.
“This is the logic behind the call for a work programme on agriculture under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change,” said Robinson adding that, “This COP must deliver action on the links between climate change and food and nutrition security. I hope that a high-level decision can be agreed which acknowledges the importance of agriculture to Africa and the rest of the world.”
Prior to the ARRD event, the agricultural organisations briefed negotiators on the need for a work programme. During the briefing, questions were raised on what comes first, the text or the work programme.
“We have had meetings on this and we are frustrated by the absence of a work programme,” SACAU CEO, Ishmael Sunga lamented. “We have discussed whether we need to have the content of the work programme before the text or not and we think it does not really matter. The fight for now is to have that defined and we can work on the details later.”
The International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movement (IFOAM) bemoaned that while the discussion of agriculture was important in the climate change negotiations, farmers had to be represented in person.
“How are farmers being involved so that they can actively inform this process?” asked an IFOM representative. “This is like discussing gender issues without having any women in the room that is what it feels like to us and we would really appreciate for a major effort that we are represented physically in this process.”
Senior trade policy advisor in the United States Department of Agriculture, Mark Manis, told the briefing of negotiators organised by the grouping of agricultural organisations that the issue of a work programme had been clearly articulated and agreed on the need to bring farmers into the dialogue through the work programme.
“In terms of the negotiating positions, we are here to get a deal and are willing to talk and will do our best to make that happen,” said Manis. “We can spend a lot of time on what we think should be in the work programme but this has been article and should not be an impediment to initiating the exercise. But if we do not get a decision here there is nothing and frankly that is not acceptable and on the basis of a positive note we are going upstairs to make it happen.”
Bruce Campbell, Director, CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security told IPS that momentum is building for the inclusion of a Work Programme on agriculture at the climate negotiations this year. He said this was clear from the more than 500 participants at this year’s Agriculture and Rural Development Day that this is the single priority issue that needs to be addressed.
“Leading agricultural groups, from farmers and researchers to policymakers and development organisations, have all come together to call on COP17 negotiators to address the need for a Work Programme on agriculture,” Campbell said. “Now, it is up to negotiators to heed our joint call-to-action and allow agriculture to play its part in building resilience amongst vulnerable populations, helping farmers adapt to more unpredictable and extreme weather conditions and mitigating future climate change.”