Africa-funded project helps small-island nations adapt to perils of climate change

Initiative underlines agriculture’s essential role in post-Paris climate action

17 November 2016, Rome -- Recognizing the disproportionate burden that climate change places on small island developing states (SIDS), FAO will support six African island nations in their efforts to make their agriculture more resilient to climate shocks and boost economic development, the agency said today.

The $1.5 million project -- funded through the Africa Solidarity Trust Fund - will focus on a variety of activities to mitigate and adapt production to changing climate conditions, and make farming practices overall more efficient.

Farmers in Cabo Verde, Comoros, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritius, Sao Tome and Principe, and Seychelles will benefit from training and knowledge exchanges on climate-smart food production, as well as ways to create viable market opportunities for nutritious food.

Among these climate-smart agriculture practices are the use of a range of easy-to-grow crops of high nutritional value that will make production more resilient to adverse conditions. Other initiatives focus on innovative ways to increase food production. These include the introduction of fish aggregation devices - also known as fish magnets - to attract more fish to catch areas and increase the availability of nutritious seafood in local markets.

On the marketing side, the project includes activities to help smallholders identify opportunities to enter high-value niche markets through Fair Trade or Organic labelling, to ensure the project is sustainable. To promote regional agricultural trade initiatives, the project will focus on strengthening regulations and agreements between importers and exporters. The project will also work with local government to identify policy opportunities, including ways to stimulate healthy nutrition trough food-based dietary guidelines and nutrition education programming.

In all, the project aims to increase the countries' capacities, from the farm-level to the policy level, to reduce the double burden of malnutrition: tackling persistent hunger, on one hand, and rising obesity, on the other.

Global climate action

The agreement was signed on the sidelines of COP22 in Marrakesh, the UN's global climate conference set to adopt action items that will bring to life last year's much-anticipated Paris Climate agreement. Among them are actions to counter the devastating impacts of climate change on agriculture and water.

Ending hunger and poverty

It's widely accepted that these impacts also pose a major threat to international efforts to end hunger and poverty.

SIDS countries overall struggle with high levels of unemployment and poverty, and rely heavily of imports for their food.

Because people's livelihoods in these island nations depend heavily on fisheries, tourism and crop production, climate change has the potential to aggravate these vulnerabilities and derail the development progress made over recent years.

For this reason, FAO's continued support small-island nations in Africa focuses on interventions that address social, economic and environmental vulnerabilities, while boosting local production of nutritious food.

Africa Solidarity Trust Fund

The Africa Solidarity Trust Fund was launched in 2013 as a unique Africa-led initiative to improve agriculture and food security across the continent. It's doing so by assisting countries and regional organizations to eradicate hunger and malnutrition, eliminate rural poverty and sustainably manage natural resources. The fund draws on contributions from Equatorial Guinea ($30 million), Angola ($10 million) and a symbolic contribution by civil society organizations in the Republic of the Congo.

Since its inception, the Fund has already provided financing for 16 projects in 38 countries including building resilience for conflict affected rural communities, reducing rural poverty through youth employment opportunities and building best practices to increase crop and livestock production.

Photo: ©FAO/ Giuseppe Bizzarri
The new project will help small island developing states mitigate and adapt production to changing climate conditions, and make farming practices overall more efficient.