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28 Aug, 2013

Ecosystem-Based Approaches Key to Tackling Challenge of African Food Security


Nairobi, 23 August 2013 (UNEP media release) – As Africa faces food security challenges worsening in the face of climate change, almost 800 delegates from across the continent backed Ecosystems-Based Adaptation Approaches as a key tool in ensuring adequate food for all at the end of a two-day meeting at the UN Environment Programme headquarters in Nairobi.

The first meeting on African Food Security and Adaptation came against the backdrop of repeated food shortages across the continent due to issues such as resource depletion, degradation of ecosystems, population growth, water scarcity and natural disasters.African agriculture is highly vulnerable to climate change and even in the scenarios of lower-end temperature rise projections, crop yields are expected to drop 10 to 20 per cent by 2050. Globally, prices are expected to rise by 30 per cent for rice and possibly double for maize over the same period, much of these increases down to climate change.

Sub-Saharan Africa is particularly at risk as agriculture is the economic foundation of many countries, employing about 60 per cent of the workforce and contributing an average of 30 per cent of Gross Domestic Product. Yet agricultural growth rates have declined and malnourishment has only shifted downwards from to 30 per cent over the last two decades.

Globally, estimates suggest that food production may have to double by 2050 to meet the demands of changing diets and the projected nine billion citizens.

In sub-Saharan Africa, this will require significant investments in agricultural development. Yet achieving food security is unmanageable without adaptation to climate change measures and practices that not only support farmers in producing enough food to meet people’s nutritional needs, but also halt degradation of the ecosystems that underpin agricultural productivity.

Ecosystem‐based adaptation (EbA) provides flexible, cost effective, and broadly applicable alternatives for building robust food systems on less inputs and reducing the impacts of climate change.

One of the experiences shared at the meeting highlighted a project in Uganda, which promoted agro-forestry and conservation agriculture and resulted in more-fertile soils and increased yields. This in turn reduced the time and cost involved in preparing land for farming, leaving more time available for diversification, for instance, into livestock rearing, and increasing the income and food security of 75,000 people.

The delegates – including representatives from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, regional economic communities, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the private sector and others – adopted a declaration calling for:

  • The funding and up-scaling of Ecosystems Based Adaptation Approaches in order to build resilient food systems and adaptation to climate change in Africa.
  • UNEP and the FAO to request governments and regional bodies to: institutionalize Ecosystems Based Adaptation Approaches into national policy frameworks; urge African regional bodies to encourage member states to develop guiding funding frameworks to support Ecosystems Based Adaptation Approaches; and encourage member states to fully implement guidelines that provide for the right to food for vulnerable people.
  • African States to adopt Ecosystem-based Approaches, conduct in-depth assessments of ecosystems conditions and policies in their countries, identify barriers to a transition to Ecosystem-based Approaches, identify gaps in capacity building and policy and ensure policy coherence.
  • The African Ministerial Conference on Environment (AMCEN) to adopt the recommendations and declaration of the First African Food Security and Adaptation Conference and integrate Ecosystems-Based Adaptation Approaches into their regional Flagship programs
  • The Africa Adaptation Knowledge Network (AAKNet) to continue to synthesize and communicate technical information on optimum techniques, activities and technical assistance needs.