FAO Regional Office for Africa

Alarm bells ring for Africa’s food systems in the time of climate change

Call for a multi-pronged and scaled-up approach to transform region

Photo: ©FAO/Samuel Creppy

11 September 2019, Accra—Food systems in Africa are increasingly exposed to different types of risks from recurring natural disasters to outbreak of animal and plant pests and diseases, socio-economic shocks, conflicts, or protracted crises of multiple issues, and the region must immediately utilize innovative approaches to increase climate adaptation and resilience.

Climate change threatens to wipe out the hard-worn development gains across the continent. With the population projected to double to 2.4 Billion by 2050, Africa needs to feed a rapidly growing population in the face of climate variability and extreme weather events.

In the African context where the level of exposure and vulnerability to risks and disasters is quite high, the agenda of transforming agriculture and food systems focusses on addressing the challenges of building the resilience of vulnerable livelihoods and production systems to withstand such shocks.

The Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) Regional Initiative on Building Resilience in Africa’s Drylands harnesses the organization’s capacity and resources to strengthen the resilience of livelihoods to shocks, threats and crises in Africa’s drylands, while responding to crises when they occur.

These crises impact and constitute significant threats not only to the livelihoods of vulnerable populations, but also to the achievement of the vision of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the vision of the African Union Agenda 2063.

Call to action

In a landmark African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) side event on increasing adaptation and resilience of African food systems, participants of the Forum from African heads of states to ministers, farmers organizations, private agribusinesses, financial institutions, academics, development partners, NGOs, and civil society called for a more massive and dynamic approach.

Decision makers across Africa and the world congregated in the region's leading agriculture forum, the AGRF, in Accra last week. Stakeholders rose to the challenge of addressing the challenges of climate change on food production, and called for collective action to ramp up efforts in strengthening resilience in the region. The collective voice was formalized into a Declaration on Increasing the Adaptation and Resilience of African Food Systems.

Adaptation and resilience are key accelerators and enablers to achieving development results and are a core part of the foundations on which development gains stand. Stakeholders saw that the current commitment and actions in support of adaptation and resilience are insufficient. They called for an urgent, massive and coordinated push across the continent to increase the resilience of livelihoods among smallholder farmers and rural communities.

Dominique Burgeon, Director of Emergency and Rehabilitation Division and Strategic Programme Leader of FAO, highlighted that, “Building climate resilience means providing farmers and pastoralists with access to effective and prompt disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation actions to ease the burden of recurrent shocks.”

The AGRF side event issued a Declaration, and according to Jean Senahoun, Senior Economist of FAO, “This is a strategic Declaration as the roles of multilateral, bilateral and private sector partners are extremely important in ramping up efforts to mitigate multiple climate-related challenges to food production in sub-Saharan Africa.”

The Declaration also called for the embedding of resilience and adaptation interventions into national agricultural and investment plans and scaling-up proven technologies targeting smallholder farmers, with a special focus on women and youth. Additionally, the Declaration promoted the use of market-driven Research for Development as well as strengthening climate data analysis and reinforcing Early Warning Early Action (EWEA) systems to protect livelihoods.