How Cattle Can Fight Climate Change

Author: Alexander Lykins | Published: January 12, 2017

In Nouakchott, a town on the edge of the Sahara in the North African country of Mauritania, lives a woman named Nancy Abeiderrahmane. In 1989 she founded an organization called Tvivski (PDF) (spring in Arabic) to connects local milk producers in Mauritania with the consumers.

Abeiderrahmane created Tiviski out of frustrations over having to rely on expensive powdered European milk. Today Tiviski provides affordable, locally produced milk to Mauritanians. For the thousands of families who produce milk, the dairy provides a livelihood.

In Richard Toll, a small Senegalese town rich with cattle, a veterinarian by the name of Bagoré Bathily had a similar dream. He founded La Laiterie du Berger, French for “the herder’s dairy.”

Despite Senegal’s having nearly 4 million herders, until 2006 almost all of the milk consumed in the country was imported, powdered milk from Europe. Now La Laiterie du Berger produces over 650,000 liters of milk a year, providing a stable income and food supply to nearly 7,000 people.

In Keffi, Nigeria, a dairy farm with a similar mission of improving development through local agriculture is even more impressive. Nagari Integrated Dairy farm was founded by Alhaji Abdullahi Adamu, a former governor, in 1982. In contrast to the previous two farms, Nagari is reported to be one of the largest single integrated dairy farms in Africa, boasting over 37,000 cattle on nearly 3,000 acres. However, Nagari has a similar vision for their organization, in which indigenous ownership, equity and sustainability are key components.

All three dairies have improved food security in their local areas and created economic opportunities for thousands of citizens. All of these dairies cite sustainability within their supply chain as a priority, and all have taken steps to work towards and measure their goals. The good news is agricultural businesses such as these are increasing in sub-Saharan Africa, as locals become invested in combating food insecurity and international funds from companies such as Danone arrive to support these efforts.

These dairies have, however, a less obvious opportunity to take advantage of: the opportunity to help the planet. They have access to tens of thousands of acres of land. All that they need to implement true sustainability is to recognize that the secret to reversing the impact of climate change lies in the soil. A style of grazing, holistic management, uses grazing animals to repair soil health, increase carrying capacity, sequester carbon in the soil, increase its fertility and capacity to retain moisture.

All of these features can hold back deserts and roll back climate change.


Agriculture and Food Security — Where Are We Headed in 2017?

Author: Lisa Cornish  | Published: January 11, 2017 

As climate change impacts the global ability to grow food, both in quality and quantity, researchers in agriculture have become an important asset for establishing long-term food security as the world’s population continues to increase.

In December, agriculture and food security researchers visited Canberra for high-level discussions on development matters with the Australian Center for International Agricultural Research and Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. And as 2017 will be an important year for establishing long-term goals and making important inroads into advances within the sector, Devex spoke with attendees to better understand where we are headed.

Crosscutting agriculture and food security across the SDGs

The adoption of the sustainable development goals has provided the agriculture and food security sector with a greater understanding of the development sector’s focus over the coming decades. According to Andrew Campbell, CEO of ACIAR, the sector want to be involved more widely in development discussions and a focus in 2017 is establishing greater ties across all development issues.

“The 17 Sustainable Development Goals capture the challenges well,” Campbell told Devex. “Australia’s Foreign Minister [Julie Bishop] wants us to take leadership role within the Indo-Pacific region climate change mitigation and adaption and there are important links to the effects on food production. But gender, the empowerment of women and girls, is also important because there is clear evidence that creating equal opportunities for engagement based on gender, you get better outcomes — and we want to create opportunities through business or employment.”


Why Drought-resistant Farming Could Be a Feminist Act in Lesotho

Author: Ryan Lenora Brown | Published: January 3, 2017

Maleloko Fokotsale’s garden isn’t very photogenic. From a distance, it looks like little more than a jumble of rocks and dirt piled high beside her neat fields in the rolling hills outside Lesotho’s capital.

And it wasn’t easy to build – there were stones to be hauled and trenches dug, dirt and leaves and fertilizer to be layered delicately like sections of a parfait.

However, this “keyhole” garden – so named for its unusual shape, like the body of an open-mouthed pac man – has a crucial advantage over the fields that surround it. It uses far less water to produce a given quantity of vegetables, helping subsistence farmers here to weather one of the worst droughts of the past century, which is now barreling toward its third year across southern and eastern Africa.

But for farmers like Ms. Fokotsale – also the chief of this small village – building a drought resistant garden gave her another, less obvious benefit, too.


Like most women here, hours of Fokotsale’s days are peeled away collecting her family’s water – wheelbarrows full of it – from nearby streams and wells. So for her, making farming more resistant to drought isn’t only a way to grow more in a parched season – it eases her domestic burdens. And that’s an effect that’s likely to continue long after this drought passes.


Nigeria: Agricultural Policies and Climate Change

Author: Martins Eke | Published: December 19, 2016 

Climate change has emerged one of the most challenging environmental issues of the 21st century. As a driver of many kinds of environmental changes, climate change poses risk to fresh water supply, food production and economic development. The massive shrinking of the Lake Chad in the North-East geopolitical zone of Nigeria which played a key role in predisposing the people of the zone to enlistment into Boko Haram terror group is a clear example of how far-reaching the consequences of climate change can be. Agriculture has being identified as having huge potential in the adaptation and mitigation of climate change. However, the ability of the government to formulate good climate change policies and effectively implement the agricultural sector strategies of the policies are key to the fight against climate change.

One major policy of the Nigerian government in the fight against climate change is the National Adaptation Strategy and Plan of Action on Climate Change for Nigeria (NASPA-CCN). This strategy envisions a Nigeria in which climate change adaptation is an integrated component of sustainable development, reducing the vulnerability and enhancing the resilience and adaptive capacity of all economic sectors and of all people particularly women and children to the adverse impacts of climate change, while also capturing the opportunities that arise as a result of climate change. Some of NASPA-CCN strategies for the agricultural sector includes: Increase access to drought-resistant crops and livestock feeds; adopt better soil management practices; provide early warning/meteorological forecasts and related information; increase planting of native vegetation cover and promotion of re-greening efforts. Considering the huge adverse effects of climate change, Nigeria has no other option than to move from business-as-usual model of agriculture to climate-smart agriculture. Capturing the opportunities arising from climate change entails taking full advantage of the employment opportunities arising from climate change in terms of the new and sustainable jobs it will create through use of new and improved ways of doing things. Planting of native vegetation cover and promotion of re-greening efforts will provide employment for those producing nursery bags as well as those on the field who plant and nurture the trees.


The Smarts of Climate Change Agriculture

Author: Paul Harman | Published: December 12, 2016 

US President-elect Donald Trump has made no bones about his dismissive stance towards climate change – an approach our farmers can ill afford to emulate. It just makes sense for them to adopt sustainable farming practices – for the environment, as well as their bottom line.

But, for our farmers to adopt sustainable farming practices, we need robust support structures in place, especially from the government.

The South African government and industry associations have indeed provided support to farmers to help them farm sustainably – starting in the Western Cape, and hoping to branch out to the rest of the country.

This support comes in the form of initiatives such as SmartAgri, the Greenagri portal, GreenCape’s sector desk, FruitLook and other interventions focused on community-based adaptation and disaster risk reduction and management.

The Western Cape Department of Agriculture and the Western Cape Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning launched SmartAgri in 2014.


Africa at Highest Economic Risk From Climate Change

Author: Alex Whiting | Published: December 18, 2016

Countries most dependent on agriculture are also at high risk of experiencing changes in climate over the next 30 years and face the biggest costs in dealing with the effects of extreme weather, according to a global climate index published on Monday.

Sub-Saharan Africa is home to 17 of the 20 countries most economically reliant on agriculture in the world.

Of the 17, all but two are at “high” or “extreme” risk of experiencing changes in temperature and rainfall, and extremes such as drought and floods, according to the Climate Change Exposure Index.

These are typically countries whose governments lack the financial or technical resources to plan 20 or 30 years in advance, said Richard Hewston, principal environmental analyst at Verisk Maplecroft, a UK-based risk management company which compiled the index.

“They’re dealing with droughts now, they’re dealing with food security issues now, they don’t have that capacity to be looking 30 years down the line,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a telephone interview.

The majority of farmers in these countries are smallholders using traditional farming methods, who do not have the financial safety nets to invest in new crops which may improve yields in years to come, Hewston said.


Drought in Southern Africa Points to Urgent Need for Climate Change Plans

It is expected that temperatures in southern Africa will rise by between 1.5°C and 3°C due to climate change by the year 2050. This is likely to cause heavy fluctuations of weather patterns and more frequent severe weather events like droughts and floods. Agriculture will be severely affected.

In turn, many economies in southern Africa which are dependent on agriculture will feel the impact. The effects of climate change are already being felt. The 2015 agricultural season in southern African was considered the driest in 35 years.

Five countries in the region – Swaziland, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia and Zimbabwe – declared national drought disasters. Eight of South Africa’s nine provinces and the southern and central areas of Mozambique declared partial drought emergencies.

Massive crop failures were experienced across the region. This led to a deficit of 9.3-million tons in cereal crop harvests. On top of this 643 000 cattle were estimated to have died in the drought. Because of these agricultural failures, food insecure populations increased by 31%. This implied that more than 40 million people needed humanitarian assistance.


Africa: Climate Finance for Farmers Key to Avert One Billion Hungry

Author: Fabíola Ortiz | Published on: November 21, 2016 

Marrakech — With climate change posing growing threats to smallholder farmers, experts working around the issues of agriculture and food security say it is more critical than ever to implement locally appropriate solutions to help them adapt to changing rainfall patterns.

Most countries consider agriculture a priority when it comes to their plans to limit the rise of global temperatures to less than 2 degrees C. In line with the Paris Climate Change Agreement, 95 percent of all countries included agriculture in their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs).

“We need to find solutions that allow people to live better, increase their income, promote decent jobs and be resilient.” — Martial Bernoux of FAO

“The climate is changing. We don’t have rains that we used to have in the past. In the last decade, we had two consecutive years of intense drought and we lost all the production. The animals all died because they had no water,” Ahmed Khiat, 68, a small farmer in the Moroccan community of Souaka, told IPS.


Re-framing Food and Agriculture: From Degeneration to Regeneration

This event, moderated by Alexis Baden-Mayer, Organic Consumers Association, US, addressed the use of sustainable agricultural practices and landscape restoration as tools to address climate change, and contribute to negative carbon emissions.


10 Million Hectares a Year in Need of Restoration Along the Great Green Wall

A groundbreaking map of restoration opportunities along Africa’s Great Green Wall has been launched at the UN climate change conference, based on collection and analysis of crucial land-use information to boost action in Africa’s drylands to increase the resilience of people and landscapes to climate change.

“The Great Green Wall initiative is Africa’s flagship programme to combat the effects of climate change and desertification,” said Eduardo Mansur, Director of FAO’s Land and Water Division, while presenting the new map at the COP22 in Marrakech.

“Early results of the initiative’s actions show that degraded lands can be restored, but these achievements pale in comparison with what is needed,” he added during a high-level event at the African Union Pavilion entitled: “Resilient Landscapes in Africa’s Drylands: Seizing Opportunities and Deepening Commitments”.

Mansur hailed the new assessment tool used to produce the map as a vital instrument providing critical information to understand the true dimension of restoration needs in the vast expanses of drylands across North Africa, Sahel and the Horn.

Drawing on data collected on trees, forests and land use in the context of the Global Drylands Assessment conducted by FAO and partners in 2015-2016, it is estimated that 166 million hectares of the Great Green Wall area offer opportunities for restoration projects.

The Great Green Wall’s core area crosses arid and semi-arid zones on the North and south sides of the Sahara. Its core area covers 780 million hectares and it is home to 232 million people. To halt and reverse land degradation, around 10 million hectares will need to be restored each year, according to the assessment. This will be major a contribution to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.