By Joyce Chimbi
DUBAI, Dec 8 2023 (IPS)
A record-breaking drought is unfolding in the Horn of Africa, where millions of people are trapped in the world’s worst acute food insecurity emergency. Food insecurity and malnutrition in West and Central Africa are on track to reach a 10-year high as coastal countries edge even closer to the debilitating effects of climate change.
“Growing up in Mombasa, Kenya, we could not imagine a time when catching fish for food in the big Indian Ocean would be a problem. But the destruction of mangroves has destroyed the fish industry. Fish hide in the roots of the mangroves to breed. The country used to have at least two major food baskets—in the Central and Rift Valley regions—but today, Kenya is queuing for food relief,” Moses Murina, a smallholder farmer in Burnt Forest town, Kenya, told IPS during the COP28 Summit.
“We are hearing of mothers boiling what we call male arrowroots, a crop that looks like an arrowroot but is really not food because it cannot be boiled or eaten, for it remains hard no matter how long you boil it in hot water. Others are boiling stones to trick their small children into thinking food is cooking on the fireplace and give desperate mothers some relief from hungry, crying children. How unfortunate that this is happening today when we have the best brains and strongest arms to put food on the table.”
COP28 has mobilized over USD83 billion in the first five days, setting the pace for a new era in climate action. The ground-breaking first ever declarations on food systems transformation are particularly crucial for Africa’s peasant farmers—134 world leaders signed up to the landmark agriculture, food, and climate action declaration, with an overall 140 countries endorsing it.
The ‘COP28 UAE Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems, and Climate Action’ is expected to be a lifeline for millions of smallholder farmers on the African continent, putting food on the table for households around the world.
All 134 signatory countries to the declaration are home to over 5.7 billion people and almost 500 million farmers, produce 70 percent of the food eaten globally, and are responsible for 76 percent of all emissions from global food systems, or 25 percent of total emissions globally.
“The Declaration addresses both global emissions and protecting the lives and livelihoods of farmers who live on the frontlines of climate change. There is no path to achieving the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement and keeping 1.5C within reach that does not urgently address the interactions between food systems, agriculture, and climate,” said Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri, UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment and COP28 Food Systems Lead.
But this is not the only big win for Africa. The Loss and Damage Fund issue was expeditiously addressed on day one of COP28; a historic agreement was reached to operationalize and capitalize funding for Loss and Damage, supporting those on the front lines of the climate crisis with USD 726 million already pledged to date.
African and global institutions, together with the governments of Germany, France, and Japan and philanthropies, have already pledged over USD 175 million to the Alliance for Green Infrastructure in Africa (AGIA). The landmark initial pledge will help to rapidly scale up financing for transformative climate-aligned infrastructure projects across the continent.
The new pledges will also advance AGIA towards the USD 500 million needed for early-stage project preparation and development blended capital—USD 40 million of the capital was provided by the African Development Bank.
Importantly, the African Development Bank Group has presented its planned USD1 billion facility to provide insurance to more than 40 million farmers across the continent against the severe impacts of climate change. An estimated 97 percent of farmers in Africa do not have agricultural insurance, as their best bet is to plant and pray.
The IFAD report shows there are an estimated 33 million smallholder farms in Africa, and the farmers that live on them contribute up to 70 percent of the food supply. In sub-Saharan Africa, growth from agriculture can be as much as 11 times more effective at reducing extreme poverty than any other sector.
The United Nations has designated 46 economies as Least Developed Countries (LDCs), entitling them to preferential market access, aid, special technical assistance, and capacity-building on technology, among other concessions. A majority, 33 of the 46 countries, are in Africa. The USD 129.3 million announced toward the Least Developed Countries Fund is expected to be life-transforming for affected African countries.
Gender, women, and climate issues are high on the COP agenda this year, with an entire day dedicated to unpacking gender and climate-related relations and other related socio-economic pressing problems such as conflict. There is progress for African women as USD 2.8 million in new money goes to gender, USD 30 million to clean cooking, USD 1.2 billion to relief, recovery, and peace, and USD $467 million to local climate action.
It is expected that this time round will be different and that these deals and pledges will help in strengthening Africa’s food systems, building resilience to climate change, reducing global emissions and therefore reducing climate-induced disasters in Africa, boosting women’s empowerment, and improving health and livelihoods in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.