By Isaiah Esipisu
DUBAI, Dec 5 2023 (IPS)
The Green Climate Fund (GCF) has announced the release of USD 100 million at the ongoing United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) 28th Conference of Parties (COP 28) in Dubai, UAE, to support 10 African countries in adapting food loss reduction solutions.
The funds, which will be disbursed through AGRA, will be used to enhance African smallholders’ access to technologies, make food loss reduction solutions more accessible and affordable, and support the creation of enabling environments for food system transformation on the continent.
The GCF was created under the Paris Agreement and is currently the world’s largest climate fund, mandated to support developing countries in raising and realizing their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) ambitions towards low-emissions, climate-resilient pathways.
Isaiah Esipisu interviewed Dr Agnes Kalibata, the President of AGRA and a member of the COP 28 Presidency Advisory Committee.
IPS: Give a brief overview of the $100 million GCF investment in Africa’s food systems.
Kalibata: At the start of COP 28, the Green Climate Fund (GCF), AGRA, and a number of other partners announced an investment of USD 100 million in what we are calling Reducing Post-Harvest Losses in Agriculture. One of the challenges farmers in Africa have is that they produce a lot of food, but 40 percent of it goes to waste. This initiative will begin by investing in seven countries that AGRA works in to ensure that we can support farmers to reduce post-harvest losses.
As announced earlier this week, the GCF will inject USD 70 million into the initiative, and other partners such as the Rockefeller Foundation and USAID, among others, will contribute the remaining USD 30 million. Through this partnership, seven countries—Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia—have already expressed interest in being part of the project. The target is 10 African countries.
This is just the beginning. We do recognize that post-harvest losses are a very critical part of growing markets in these countries; it plays a critical role in improving food security for farmers, but it is also a critical part of reducing climate change because if we can save more, we do not need more land to produce more.
IPS: How exactly are the funds going to help smallholder farmers in the mentioned countries at the grassroots level?
Kalibata: The money will help farmers get access to technologies that will help them reduce losses during and after harvesting their produce. For example, when you are harvesting rice and putting it in the paddy water, you are compromising the quality because the grains will crack. So one of the things we will do is ensure that farmers are trained on how to harvest their produce, when to harvest, and the handling process.
For example, we will equip them with the right shelving and storage techniques. This will ensure that after harvest, commodities are dried and kept well in order to avoid things like aflatoxin contamination.
IPS: What factors were considered when selecting the countries to benefit from the USD 100 billion?
Kalibata: With GCF, countries have to express interest in participating in any particular initiative. In our case, the funds are for the purpose of unlocking post-harvest losses.
Our drive is therefore to support countries in implementing these programs as the primary partners in the initiative. Other partners include co-funders such as the Rockefeller Foundation, USAID, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), among others.
IPS: What do food loss and waste mean in terms of greenhouse gas emissions?
Kalibata: It is clear from the science that Africa emits the least of the greenhouse gases. But in terms of food systems, food loss and waste emit 8 percent of greenhouse gases globally.
However, our emissions in Africa are very minimal, and therefore our main focus is on food systems. Just think about what will happen if we save 40 percent of the food we lose to waste! Every time we go to the farm, we are always looking towards increasing our yields. But then we end up losing more than our production increment.
It is also important to note that most of the food wasted ends up producing methane from organic matter, which is a dangerous greenhouse gas. Reducing losses will therefore mean reducing such emissions.
IPS: When are farmers likely going to start benefiting from the $100 million from the GCF?
Kalibata: Working with GCF takes some time. We need time to prepare the investments, and we also need time to make the programs and projects ready. So far, GCF has released what they call the preparatory facility for investment, which is usually the initial process.
However, it is not the only investment we work with as AGRA. There are others. But this particular investment is targeted at supporting the building of systems, strengthening the systems for better post-harvest management, and ensuring that farmers have access to the appropriate technologies.
IPS: When disbursing these funds, will AGRA work directly with governments, or will it be through community- and farmer-based organisations?
Kalibata: AGRA works in a number of ways. Where governments have the ability to work with us, we engage them. Where we have different partners to work with, we engage them. We also work with businesses to enable the private sector’s ecosystems.
We also work with governments to strengthen their capacity so that they can improve the way they engage the private sector. At some point, we work with NGOs whenever we find that it is the only system that we can work with to get the results we need.
IPS: In your role as the advisor to the COP Presidency, do you see the money committed at COP 28 for the Loss and Damage Fund coming in to salvage pastoralists and smallholders in ASALs who have always lost their livelihoods either to droughts or floods?
Kalibata: Let’s begin by celebrating the fact that the Loss and Damage Fund is now active at the World Bank, and it is going to be available for countries. One of the things we are trying to push for is for this money to become accessible to those who need it. It shouldn’t come in the form of expensive loans that are difficult to access. This is because we are dealing with losses and damages that have already happened.
What will be good in terms of managing the use of the Loss and Damage Fund to support the agricultural sector and food systems would be to strengthen the resilience of farmers. They need access to good-quality seeds; they need access to disease-, pest-, and drought-tolerant seeds, keeping in mind that flood-tolerant varieties are already on the market.
This is also an opportunity for us to strengthen the business ecosystem that supports agriculture.
The third point is that there is so much loss happening in the system. When people lose everything, then the impact is so great. If we can only start by managing that kind of impact, then people will have enough food to eat and enough ability to recover because, with climate change, farmers even lose the seeds for the next season. Yet the most important thing for many farmers is to save seed for the next season.
IPS: Why is the African continent not food secure despite its abundance of arable land?
Kalibata: It is because the issue with Africa’s food security is not about land. It is about being able to produce enough per unit area. Farmers who do not have access to good seeds cannot produce enough. Farmers with no access to appropriate fertilizers cannot produce enough. We are actually making efforts in those areas, but it is not enough.
But most importantly, there is a need for good leadership to ensure that all these things reach the smallholder farmers in good time. You have to create systems that reach out to them, and that is what AGRA is investing in.
IPS UN Bureau Report