Africa: Catalyzing Climate-Resilient Agriculture in Africa

Considering how important agricultural systems are for providing food and jobs, it is crucial to protect these systems in Africa from the harm caused by climate change. This will help keep agriculture stable and working well to sustain households.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) reports show that temperatures are rising faster, causing more extreme weather. This is making it harder for people to get enough food, leading to displacement and conflicts. Farms are producing less food, and there’s not enough money to adapt to these changes. The costs of damages are going up, and it’s crucial that everyone gets warnings early.

Even though Africa contributes only a small amount to global greenhouse gas emissions, the continet feels the worst impacts of climate change. How can we sustainably manage our resources? About 95% of Africa’s agricultural output depends on rainfall. This leads to not only reduced food availability but also diminished earnings for farmers.

The unique challenges faced by Africa include a population that is expected to double by 2050 and over 60% of the workforce engaged in agriculture. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Africa is projected to experience temperature increases of 1.5 to 2 times the global average. This has also contributed to a decline in agricultural productivity, with estimates indicating that yields of major crops could decrease by up to 50% in some African countries by 2050.

2023 UN Climate Change Conference

COP28 climate conference presents a unique opportunity to accelerate climate action and commit to enhancing resilience of agricultural systems in Africa. This calls for prioritizing investments in innovative solutions that empower smallholder farmers, enhance their ability to withstand the harsh effects of erratic weather patterns, while promoting sustainable practices.

Reflecting on COP 27 in Egypt, nations reached an agreement to establish fresh funding mechanisms aimed at mobilizing resources for developing economies significantly affected by the unequal impacts of climate change. Nonetheless, the climate emergency has intensified with emissions escalating at a concerning pace.

Climate change is not a future threat but a present reality in Africa. The continent’s vulnerability to the adverse effects of climate change directly affects smallholder farmers, who make up the majority of Africa’s agricultural workforce. These farmers often speak of irregular rainfall patterns and extreme weather events, however, coupled with limited access to technology, information, and financial resources, they face a perfect storm of challenges.

Food security is at stake, and climate-related crop losses are driving up food prices, leaving millions of people at risk of hunger. With rural economies depending highly on agriculture, their income levels are directly affected, subsequently dampening the overall well-being of these communities.

To address the challenges of climate change in Africa, we must foster a resilient agricultural system that can adapt and thrive in a changing climate. AECF (Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund), with its mission to catalyze private sector investments in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) across Africa, is playing a pivotal role in promoting climate-resilient agriculture. Our work across Africa is transformative for rural communities to deal with the challenges exacerbated by adverse climate conditions.

Financing Climate-Smart Agriculture: AECF has been at the forefront of providing financial support to agribusinesses and enterprises focused on climate-smart agriculture. We offer grants and concessional financing to businesses that develop and implement innovative solutions for climate-resilient farming practices. These investments have helped improve access to drought-resistant crop varieties, innovative irrigation systems, and weather forecasting tools, reducing the risks associated with erratic weather patterns.

One remarkable example is our partnerships with companies in Africa providing clean energy access solutions. For instance, the Renewable Energy and Adaptation Climate Technologies (REACT SSA) programme funded by Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) and REACT Household Solar programme funded by Foreign, Commonwealth Development Office (FCDO), have collectively strengthened 101 companies. These companies provide energy access solutions to more than 560,000 households, benefiting over 2.8 million individuals. Additionally, they aided 23,599 micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and generated over 3,800 direct jobs.

For farmers who form a part of this population, such support on energy access translates into increased production all year round, and also makes them less dependent on rainfall, thus mitigating the effects of climate change.

Capacity Building and Technical Assistance: AECF recognizes that having access to financial resources alone isn’t enough; possessing technical knowledge is equally essential. Our work with SMEs to enhance their capacities in climate-smart agriculture includes training on sustainable farming techniques, the use of climate data for decision-making, and post-harvest management to reduce losses.

For instance, our partnerships such as Investing In Women in the Blue Economy in Kenya (IIW-BEK) involve empowering small businesses with the necessary skills and knowledge to embrace climate-resilient agricultural practices. This support also enables farmers to better mitigate the effects of climate-related risks and develop sustainable agricultural enterprises.

Promoting Market Linkages: AECF’s initiatives also focus on strengthening market linkages for agricultural products. We work to connect smallholder farmers with markets that can provide a steady demand for their produce. This market-driven approach helps build resilience by ensuring a more stable income source for farmers.

In conclusion, climate change poses a severe threat to Africa’s agriculture, and the time to act is now. Climate-resilient agriculture will be possible if we ensure there’s food security, economic stability, and the overall well-being of African communities. As we approach COP28, we are committed to advocating for policies and investments that prioritize climate-smart agriculture and sustainable food systems for Africa.
The writer is the Chief Executive Officer, AECF

About AECF: AECF (Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund) is a leading non-profit development organization supporting innovative agribusiness and renewable energy enterprises to reduce rural poverty, promote resilient communities, and create jobs.

AECF provides patient capital to highly innovative, early-stage, and growing enterprises that are hidden gems poised for greatness but that struggle to access funding from traditional sources of finance.
To date, we have supported over 400 businesses in 26 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, impacted more than 30 million lives, and created over 29,000 direct jobs,

For more information, visit www.aecfafrica.org