Science & Environment

Africa's farmers 'need urgent climate-proof investment'

Farmer Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption International donors and national governments need to do more to help Africa's smallholder farmers adapt to climate change, the report says

A lack of investment will derail efforts to ensure Africa's farmers can feed future generations in the face of climate change, a report has warned.

Food shortages, malnutrition and migration will undo decades of development unless more funding is made available, the authors added.

Failure to act could jeopardise UN global development goals, they warn.

The findings were compiled by the Montpellier Panel, a group of experts from Europe and Africa.

The report - The Farms of Change: African Smallholders Responding to an Uncertain Climate Future - recommended that international donors and governments took action in a range of priority areas, including:

  • bringing climate change's threat to food and nutrition security to the top of UN and national governments' agenda,
  • investing in sustainable farming systems to help smallholders adapt to and mitigate climate change,
  • investing in research and local capacities to understand the responses of different crops and livestock breeds to drought, floods and heat stress,
  • scale-up proven community-based adaptation projects.

Montpellier Panel chairman Prof Sir Gordon Conway observed: "Progress made in the last two decades to combat hunger and poverty in Africa will be irrelevant if action is not taken on climate change.

"African smallholders cannot escape poverty unless they are equipped to adapt to a changing climate - and this requires serious, large-scale investments," he added.

'Failed seasons'

The concerns voiced by Sir Gordon, who is also director of Agriculture for Impact, echoed the findings of a report last year that warned that many small-scale farmers across the continent faced the threat of "failed seasons".

Image copyright AP
Image caption Africa is forecast to be one of the regions that will bear the brunt of future climate change

The 2014 African Agriculture Status Report said the vital food producers faced a risk of being overwhelmed by the pace and severity of climate change.

The 2014 publication called for the adoption of "climate-smart agriculture" that would help make crops more resilient to future extreme weather events.

Another report published last year, On Trial: GM Crops in Africa, produced by UK think-tank Chatham House, said: "Increasing agricultural productivity and adapting farming to climate change are central to Africa's development prospects."

It suggested that sub-Saharan Africa's agricultural sector would benefit if it was able to harvest the fruits of biotechnology in order to establish sustainable development.

But it also said that a key challenge was being able to attract the necessary funding for biotechnology projects that focused on staple crops, such as cassava, as such food crops had a limited market globally.

Figures estimate that 200 million Africans are chronically malnourished and five million people each year die as a result of hunger.

The Montpellier Panel report that without urgently needed investment to climate-proof Africa's agriculture, the situation would become even more bleak.

It warned that by the middle of this century, hunger and child malnutrition could increase by more than 20% as a result of changes to the climate, undoing the gains made by the UN Millennium Development Goals.

However, Africa director of the International Food Policy Research Institute, Dr Ousmane Badiane, outlined why the report was calling for greater funding to climate-proof the continent's farms.

He said: "When given the right options and incentives, farmers can drive sustainable agricultural development that builds resilience to disasters and greenhouse gas emissions."

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