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COP27: Funding poor farmers

A Ugandan farmer tends to her garden of bananas in southern Uganda. IFAD wants farmers like her to have access to finance to help them adapt to the devastating effects of climate change. PHOTO/FAO-UGANDA

Why IFAD wants resources dedicated to poor rural smallholder farmers

Kampala, Uganda | RONALD MUSOKE | Poor rural smallholder farmers in developing countries like Uganda may not know about the on-going UN Climate Change Conference (COP27) in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh but they are aware of the devastating effects climate change is having on their livelihoods.

From the devastating floods such as those subsiding in Nigeria and Pakistan to the historic drought threatening famine in eastern Africa, the climate change impact on poor rural communities is increasing and millions of small-scale farmers are struggling to cope.

In 2021, as many as 828 million people around the world suffered from hunger in part due to the devastating effects of climate change. In the Horn of Africa alone, at least 36 million people are still affected by the region’s worst drought in 40 years.

While no country is immune to the impacts of climate change, those countries with poor rural small-scale farmers are the most vulnerable and the least able to cope. Rural farmers already produce a third of the world’s food and up to 80% in some areas of Africa and Asia. However, they receive a miniscule portion (less than 2%) of the funds invested globally in climate finance.

Alvaro Lario, the president of IFAD— the UN’s specialized financial institution in charge of empowering rural people around the world to boost their food security, nutrition and income—wants this to change.

He says financial resources dedicated to the world’s poorest small-scale food producers could make a big difference towards building their resilience as they attempt to cope with the ever changing environmental conditions.

“This is what we need to do to ensure a decent future for the next generation,”said Lario, shortly after signing a financing agreement with the Norwegian government on the sidelines of COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh on Nov.9.

Lario said failure to support those who produce one-third of the world’s food will compromise food production, worsen global hunger and poverty, and jeopardise political stability.

According to IFAD, climate finance flows are at the moment focused primarily on mitigating global warming. For instance, for every US$ 18 spent on mitigation, only US$ 1 is spent on adaptation.

But, Dr Jyostna Puri, the IFAD Associate Vice President of Strategy and Knowledge Department, recently noted that while efforts in mitigation are essential, they will take two or three decades to bear fruit.

“We must urgently invest in adaptation now so that small-scale farmers can continue to grow the crops they rely on for their incomes to feed their nations,” she said, “Mitigation and adaptation are like the two wings of a bird, we cannot continue flying on one wing.”

Last year, IFAD warned production of staple crops in eight African countries would decrease by as much as 80% by 2050 in some areas if temperatures continue to rise.

The report, “What Can Smallholder Farmers Grow in a Warmer World? Climate Change and Future Crop Sustainability in East and Southern Africa” showed that if no changes are made to agricultural practices or global policies, erratic weather patterns, drier conditions and an increase in temperatures by 2oC will have a devastating impact on yields of staple and cash crops grown by small scale farmers in parts of Angola, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

This could have a catastrophic impact on poverty and food availability unless there is an urgent injection of funding to help vulnerable farmers adapt how and what they farm.

According to the report’s findings, the impact of climate change will inevitably force fundamental changes to local crop choices and agricultural practices by 2050 in these countries.

Climate finance experts say if insufficient funding for adaptation continues it will have ripple effects across the world.

Norwegian contribution

On Nov. 9, this year, the Norwegian government pledged an additional US$9.5 million contribution of the urgently needed climate finance to IFAD as part of its commitment to triple its support to climate adaptation by 2026.

The latest Norwegian contribution, which will go to IFAD’s Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme (ASAP+), is part of Norway’s overall pledge to boost climate finance to rural communities.

“Norway’s support to this IFAD programme will contribute to increased climate resilience and food security for around 10 million smallholders in poor rural areas in the years ahead,” said Anne Beathe Tvinnereim, the Norwegian Minister of International Development during the signing ceremony. She added: “We support that women and youth are prioritized groups in ASAP+,” she said.

IFAD’sAdaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme (ASAP) has so far raised US$500 million but these resources are far too little when compared to what is needed to push back the devastating effects of climate change.

During COP26 last year in Glasgow, Scotland, developed countries such as Norway committed to double their funding for adaptation to US$40 billion per year by 2025. However, new estimates unveiled by a UN report suggest that this commitment will not be enough.

Adaptation costs in developing countries are expected to rise to up to US$340 billion a year by 2030 and up to US$565 billion by 2050, according to the latest UNEP’s Gap Adaptation Report published on Nov.3.

In order to address the urgency, IFAD is stepping up its efforts to channel more climate funding to the rural areas of developing countries, in particular by acting as an aggregator of development finance from various sources.

IFAD is committed to dedicating 40% of its core resources to climate action, focusing on adaptation, for the period 2022-2024 – up from 35% today. The Fund is also significantly scaling up partnerships with the Green Climate Fund, Global Environment Facility and the Adaptation Fund to mobilize additional funds.

What’s ASAP?

The adaptation for smallholder agriculture programme (ASAP) was launched in 2012 with the aim of raising US$ 500 million to help build resilience of 10 million rural farmers in developing countries such as Uganda.

IFAD’s enhanced Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme (ASAP+) is a 100% climate financing mechanism and is envisioned to be the largest fund dedicated to channeling climate finance to small-scale producers.

ASAP+ focuses on addressing the climate change drivers of food insecurity by increasing resilience of vulnerable communities, farmers, fishers and pastoralists—including women, youth, indigenous people and other marginalized groups—to the uncertainty caused by climate change on food security and nutrition and reducing greenhouse gases through win-win interventions that also yield significant food security benefits particularly for vulnerable groups.

The projects under this programme which have so far benefitted 6.5 million smallholders across 41 countries, including in Uganda, have included enhancing climate services, climate risk assessment, women’s empowerment, private sector engagement, natural resource management and governance, knowledge management.

IFAD has recently enhanced the same programme (ASAP+) and is specifically targeting areas of food insecurity, while building on previous ASAP projects that feature various adaptation techniques. According to IFAD, there is no “one-size fits-all” solution as adaptation must be locally driven.

IFAD in Uganda

In Uganda, IFAD is working to increase the incomes of rural households living in poverty, along with improving their food security and reducing their vulnerability.

Activities target two groups; poor smallholder households who have the potential to commercialize their economic activities, and extremely vulnerable households, who have limited livelihood options and are generally bypassed by development initiatives.

IFAD also focuses resources in the areas with the highest incidence of poverty (northern Uganda) and the greatest density of poor people (eastern Uganda).

Investing in rural households

Meanwhile, new research shows that investment in small-scale farmers and poor rural households in developing countries over the last 20 years by IFAD has pulled carbon out of the atmosphere and reduced more greenhouse gas emissions than they emitted, proving to be effective in limiting climate change.

The new assessment report, which is part of the Paris Alignment Roadmap, was presented Nov.11 at the ongoing COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh.

“I am thrilled to announce that IFAD investments are net–negative and contribute to global efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions. This highlights a very important yet under-recognised benefit of investing in small-scale agriculture,” said Jyotsna Puri.

“With the right investments, small-scale farmers can adapt to climate change and help us sink carbon, and mitigate climate change,” she said, adding that, “Their contribution should not be overlooked.”

Puri noted that IFAD had over the last three years (2019-2021) committed US$ 1.2bn in climate finance to help small scale farmers cope with climate change effects such as rising temperatures and extreme weather events such as droughts, floods and cyclones put their lives and livelihoods at risk.

According to the assessment, the management of annual croplands is the activity with the largest mitigation potential, with carbon sequestration in soils representing the largest sink.

Increasing carbon in soils has a multitude of benefits in addition to climate change mitigation. It improves water infiltration, increases availability of nutrients and enhances soil biodiversity.

Other activities with high carbon sequestration potential includes coastal wetland management, the creation of a forest or group of trees in an area where there was no previous tree cover, agroforestry (interspersing crops in forested areas), better forest management which helps store carbon in biomass, and low-methane livestock- rice production.

The assessment was conducted as part of ongoing efforts to prepare a Paris Alignment Roadmap that will help IFAD align its investments and activities with the Paris goals of low-carbon and climate resilient development.

“It is time for the global community to join us in this critical moment to scale-up climate investments for small-scale farmers,” added Puri.

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