Ecosystem Based Agriculture for Food Security Conference 2015

I had the opportunity to attend the ‘2nd Africa Ecosystem Based Adaptation for Food Security Cnference 2015’ held at the UN complex Gigiri, Nairobi Kenya on 30th and 31st July 2015. There were over 1200 invited attendees, comprising of dignitaries, professionals, farmers and students.

2nd Africa EbA Conference
2nd Africa EbA Conference

A Major concern of the conference was addressing the continent’s transecting challenge of

hunger and malnutrition in the growing and increasingly young unemployed population, in the face of climate change. The conference intended to showcase how, by investing in its ecosystems and working with nature, Africa can climate proof its food production systems and achieve sustainable agricultural productivity hence enhance food security under the changing climate; and how, by investing in value addition process along the agro-value chain, potential opportunities for employment for the youth are created.

Here are some powerful quotes from some of the speakers;

“Imagine Africa without hunger, poverty, malnutrition, obesity…” Dr. Patrick Kormawa , FAO SRC Eastern & Rep to AU, ECA

“It is not the analysis that we need at this time, we need to go beyond that. We need to take action.” Dr. Cosmas Ochieng, Executive Director, ACTS

”It is within the power of our generation to sort out the challenges of food security in Africa” Dr. Cosmas Ochieng, Executive Director, ACTS

”From a youth perspective? It is our time now. The youth should take over” Youth Delegate from South Africa

”Let us not just speak about what the government can do for us, what the private sector can do for us.. We must be self determining” Alice Kaudia , Environment Secretary. Min. of Environment Kenya

The Drafting Committee_2nd Africa EbA Conference
The Drafting Committee_2nd Africa EbA Conference

Food Security, as defined by World Food Summit is the condition where all people at all times have social, economic and physical access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary and preferential needs for an active and healthy life. Africa has an immense agricultural potential. It is estimated that about 65% of the world’s arable land and 10% of internal renewable fresh water sources are in Africa, yet;

  • About 240 million people (25%) in Africa go to bed hungry and over 200million people suffer the debilitating symptoms of chronic to severe malnutrition. (UN-FAO)
  • 6million tones of grain annually are lost due to degraded ecosystems. These are enough to meet annual calorific needs for 30million people.
  • Sub-Saharan Africa loses food worth up to USD4billion annually (about 23% of field harvests), enough to feed 48million people per annum in Post harvest losses (PHLs) due to inadequate financial and structural resources for proper harvesting, storage and transportation, as well as unfavorable climatic conditions for food storage. (UN FAO)
  • Africa’s annual food import bill is over USD35 billion. Imports exceed exports by 30%.
  • In Africa, a 10% increase in crop yields translates to approximately a 7% reduction in poverty, according to the World Bank.

Very interesting facts there. The road to Food Security in Africa, it is believed, lies with the adoption of the Ecosystem based Adaptation driven Agricultural strategies that aim not only at maintaining but also improving the fertility and productivity of ecosystems which often include traditional practices such as conservation agriculture, crop rotation, inter-cropping and biological pest control.

The delegates summarized the conference with strong resolutions to achieve Food Security in Africa, adopting the “Nairobi Action Agenda on Africa’s Ecosystem Based Adaptation for Food Security” declaration. The chief guest  H.E. Mrs. Rhoda Peace Tumusiime, Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture of the Africa Union Commission closed the conference with a strong message; ”Together we can build the Africa we want”.

Environment Today

The global environment is changing at a rate never seen before. With the human population already at seven billion and still continuing to expand, especially in Africa, Asian countries and Latin America, things cannot remain the same. Our urban centres and cities are suffering from overcrowding as more people are moving to towns to seek a better life. With this comes all manner of pollution. Solid waste menace is one of them. Municipalities are having a tough time coping with huge volumes of solid waste generated on a daily basis. These wastes end up in dumping sites; where there is little or no recycling done on them. The result is an environment that is highly polluted .Use of plastic bags has aggravated the situation further since they are not biodegradable.

US Environment Protection Agency photograph

Nations are struggling to feed their populations. Hunger and malnutrition is still lingering on, one year after the Millennium Development Goals expired.The Sustainable Development Goals are now on course. The purpose is to enable implementation of sustainable development agenda post 2015.It calls on nations to realign their development objectives with environmental conservation and management, so that adverse environmental damages are tackled while ensuring improved living standards for the people. Will the Sustainable Development Goals work? How are they going to be implemented? Will nations manage to fund these projects on their own, especially the developing countries?

Meanwhile, climate change is already a reality. Precipitation patterns, distribution and quantities have changed considerably. It is no longer easy to predict rainfall as before. Droughts and floods are common. It is a case of extremes. There is also global temperature rise which is melting ice sheets at the poles and on The Alps, The Everest. Result is sea level rise that is threatening the future of islands and low-lying coastal areas. Stabilizing these temperatures will require a lot of cooperation from all the countries, whether big or small, developed or developing. It will definitely take centuries before results are realized. Sacrifices will have to be made and above all, humans will have to adapt to the changes. How do we for instance, build our homes to withstand these extremes? Would a country like Kenya manage to feed its citizens when rains fail completely? Have we built the capacities of the most vulnerable people in our society, such as those living in arid and semi arid areas? Do they have alternative sources of livelihood other than pastoralism?How about our dependence on hydroelectric power, would we manage to power our homes and industries if water levels in our dams reached the lowest levels, or possibly dried out completely?

Tackling environmental challenges of the 21st century and beyond should concern every government, multilateral corporations, donor agencies and not to forget people like you and me. We all have a role to play. Our environment needs us, but we need it the most.

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Beryl is a fourth year student at Maasai Mara University, pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Science (specializing in environmental conservation and management). She is the current secretary of Maasai Mara University Wildlife and Environmental Club.

During her attachment at Nairobi City County, department of environment, she got exposed to the environmental challenges facing the city of Nairobi and how they are being tackled. She had the opportunity to work in environmental planning and management, solid waste management and the parks departments of the county office.

Video Series on TK & Climate Science

The United Nations University Institute of Advanced Studies has released a Video Series on Traditional Knowledge and Climate Science

With deep connections to nature, the world’s indigenous people and local communities are experiencing some of the most pronounced affects of climate change. This video series focuses on some of the key links between traditional knowledge and science regarding climate change.

Relevant topics include:

1. Land Use and Adaptation (18:15 mins)

2. Energy (8:54 mins)

3. REDD+ (9:47 mins)

Master of Science in Sustainability, Development, and Peace

The Master of Science in Sustainability, Development, and Peace programme at the United Nations University addresses pressing global issues of climate change, development, sustainability, peacebuilding and human rights through an innovative interdisciplinary approach that integrates the social sciences, natural sciences and humanities. The programme is intended for recent graduates, professionals, and practitioners, offering the unique opportunity to study at a global university within the framework of the United Nations. It provides students with the knowledge and skills to make important contributions towards solving global issues, whether through employment by UN agencies, other international organizations, governments, civil society, or the private sector.

The programme is practically oriented, user-focused and of the highest academic quality. It offers opportunities to gain practical experience through internships or field research with a UN agency or other international organization. The programme builds on the strong record of the United Nations University (UNU) in training and capacity development, and utilizes the extensive network of scholars and academic institutions participating in UNU research.

The standard period of study is two years; the programme starts in September, with students expected to complete all the requirements by July in the second academic year after enrolment.

Further information is available from the United Nations University Institute of Sustainability and Peace.

AFRICA: Going rural and green

Farming needs to make money to drive growth

ADDIS ABABA, 15 October 2010 (IRIN) – As rural Africa experiences an increasingly moody climate which will erode resilience, drive up hunger and threaten economic growth, it is time countries got serious about development, participants at the seventh African Development Forum in Addis Ababa were told.

Africa’s Rural Futures (RF) programme, an initiative of the African Union’s New Partnership for Development (NEPAD) and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), sets out plans to boost rural development, and is an attempt to adapt to the impact of climate change.

At the same time, organizations such as the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Bank are backing the UN’s Green Economy Initiative, which is more focused on mitigation.

In his address, Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, NEPAD’s chief executive officer, called RF a “new way of thinking about development”.

But is it new? At a policy level, Lindiwe Sibanda, head of the Food Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network, a think-tank, explained: “Well, what they are talking about is integrated rural development with agriculture as the driver. It will get all the ministries to look at their sectors with a rural lens. It moves beyond the sectoral approach.”

This would do agriculture in Africa some good, she hoped. “Development of agriculture has suffered because of the sectoral approach.” Departments of transport, infrastructure and agriculture have not worked in consort in many countries, affecting food production and supply.

In a bid to revive their failing rural economies, some developed  countries have been running RF programmes for some years. WWF, which has been involved in some of these programmes, had been looking at an initiative to improve rural livelihoods with a link to improving biodiversity in Africa, when they found NEPAD.


African countries need to bring their own money to the table – then only will they be able  to decide what development path or programmes they want to implement

The RF programme is guided by the fact that 60 percent of the population in Africa is rural, though UN projections indicate that the number of urban dwellers is likely to treble over the next four decades.

“Urbanization is a part of the natural evolution of a society, but what conditions will these new urban dwellers live in – slums?” asked Estherine Lesinge-Fotabong, NEPAD’s programme implantation head.

By providing new impetus to agriculture, the RF programme also hopes to create jobs, absorb the growing population, and tackle food security and gender empowerment. Most subsistence farmers in Africa are women.


RF was launched at the Forum, but is still being fine-tuned and is currently at a “strategic document stage”. It envisages a two-year period of consultation with countries and civil society across Africa.

RF talks about developing linkages between local and regional markets, but stops short of any connections to industry. “That is its shortcoming, but the programme is still evolving,” said Mersie Ejigu, head of the Partnership for African Environmental Sustainability, an international NGO.

Ejigu, a development economist and former minister of development and planning in the Ethiopian cabinet, added: “I am not saying we need to have big investments in massive agro-based industries. It could be small-scale, home-based industries but when you are looking beyond agriculture and adding value, you have to look at processing the primary product.”


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But money, and especially donors, decide the future of any programme in Africa, said Mamadou Cissokho, honorary president of the Network of West African Farmer and Producer Organizations. “African countries need to bring their own money to the table – then only will they be able to decide what development path or programmes they want to implement.”

This concern was also voiced by WWF’s Gabriella Richardson-Temm: “We are happy with the way this is shaping up and that Africa wants to design their own programme – but then donors, who bring in the funds, come with their own sets of conditions.”

RF could also be one of the components of the UN’s Green Economy Initiative, which is assisting governments to “green” their economies by reshaping policies to ensure growth on the basis of non-fossil fuel-based energy, backed by sustainable agriculture (with the help of investments in clean technology and public transport that runs on renewable energy). It also focuses on greening other sectors such as waste management and water services.

“You don’t want us to grow,” said a participant when UNEP’s Achim Steiner spelt out the initiative. Coal is still the cheapest source of energy in developing countries. Another said: “But Africa is already green – most of our people use biomass to produce energy.”

But you need money to access these alternative green technologies, pointed out Moussa Ould Hwedna, a technical adviser to Mauritania’s Ministry of Water and Sanitation. “Ours is a dry country and we need solar power to pump water from underground and the cost of solar energy is prohibitive.”

“We would like to adopt these technologies but developed countries should look at making it cheaper for us,” he added.

This is one of the issues at the UN climate change talks, the next round of which will take place in Mexico later this year.

jk/cb      Source: IRIN

Theme(s): Economy, Environment, Food Security, Gender Issues, Governance, Migration, Natural Disasters, Aid Policy, Urban Risk, Water & Sanitation,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]