Climate change is already a measurable reality posing significant social, economic and environmental risks and challenges globally. Like many other developing countries, South Africa is especially vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

Climate-smart future: ‘Innovation is not enough’

A leading expert warns that agriculture in Africa is the “most exposed sector”, with estimates indicating that climate change will cause a decrease in yields of up to 22% of the continent’s rain-fed staple crops over the next 20 years.

Speaking at a webinar, Dr Kevin Kariuki, vice president for power energy, climate and green growth at the African Development Bank, warned that agriculture faced many challenges due to the changing climate change.

“Agriculture across most of sub-Saharan Africa is still efficiently rain-fed and therefore extremely vulnerable to both short-term fluctuations and long-term changes in climate conditions,” he said.

Kariuki’s warning comes ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP27) in Egypt next month. Agriculture and food systems will be a critical focus of the event which many now call the “African COP”.

Dr Beth Dunford, vice president for agriculture, human and social development at the African Development Bank. Photo: Supplied/ADB

The webinar in which Kariuki participated was presented by the African Development Bank and the Global Center on Adaptation. Panellists examined ways to make agriculture attractive to the youth, including climate-smart and digital agriculture solutions.

Dr Beth Dunford, the bank’s vice president for agriculture, human and social development, noted that while agriculture holds tremendous potential for job creation in Africa, its current traditional form is not attractive to young people for various reasons, including negative perceptions.

“Who wants to wear overalls, dig the field with a hoe or drive a tractor when we can do it in a suit and dust coat, right? However, technology makes agriculture cool enough to motivate them to use tech-enabled enterprises to be part of agricultural value chains,” Dunford said.

Teacher. Anthony Nyong, senior director for Africa at the Global Center on Adaptation, added, “There is a gap in the agriculture sector in Africa, and that is in the use of digital solutions.”

Data-driven services

Meanwhile, the Africa Adaptation Acceleration Program (AAAP) was scaling up access to digital technologies and associated data-driven agricultural and financial services for at least 30 million African farmers.

In a program in the Horn of Africa – currently ongoing in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, and Sudan – the AAAP is facilitating the integration of climate-smart digital technologies for adaptation and resilience.

“The project will increase the productivity of crops and livestock by 30%, reaching about 1.3 million farmers and pastoralists using climate services such as index insurance. About 55,000 additional jobs will be created for youth and women,” said Oluyede Ajayi, Africa program lead for food security and rural wellbeing at the Global Center on Adaptation.

Panellists said the youth must use their digital skills to accelerate the transformation of the agricultural sector, which forms the central pillar of Africa’s economy. They urged participants to contribute to solutions that enhance market linkages to promote agribusiness.

“Africa’s significant youth population faces rising unemployment with myriad negative consequences. These challenges are further exacerbated by climate shocks, skill gaps and limited preparedness to address the effects of climate change,” said economist Andre-Marie Taptue.

In her concluding remarks, Edith Ofwona Adera, principal regional climate change officer and AAAP coordinator at the bank, stressed the need to strengthen adaptation and resilience measures and expedite mainstreaming climate adaptation for transformation at scale.

She called for the engagement of the private sector, given the role they can play in adapting to climate change, financing adaptation, and supporting others through products and services for resilience.

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