Saturday, December 3, 2011

Climate Smart Agriculture can be pretty smart

Agriculture and Rural Development Day was a resounding success, with over 500 people participants and an excellent set of plenary presentations, small group "learning events," and a fun engagement with the South African Minister of Agriculture. For me the highlights were threefold: 1. presentation of the summary of the Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change by Sir John Bebbington, 2. showcasing of many examples of innovative agricultural development initiatives, and 3. coalescing of a common approach and simple message about the links between agriculture and climate change that may be simple enough to get the attention of the negotiators.

The Commission Report can be viewed at the following website. It includes summary analysis and a set of clearly articulated and workable recommendations.

Innovative agricultural development initiatives: a) a startup private seed company in Kenya that can't meet farmers' demand for seeds for drought-tolerant varieties; b) a regional agricultural development approach in Malawi that relies on a large commercial farm that provides training, development, contracts and inputs for local farmer groups; c) weather-indexed insurance in West Africa; d) a carbon farming project in Kenya that is increasing productivity and resilience, while generating carbon credits; e) a productive safety net project in Ethiopia that reaches over a million farmers; f) an insurance for work program in Ethiopia, .... to name a few.

The South African Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Tina Joemat-Pettersson, has assumed de fact political leadership of the Climate Smart Agriculture initiative. She has done this in a few ways, including convening a meeting of African Ministers of Agriculture, participating very actively in Agriculture and Rural Development Day, and advocating strongly for agriculture in the COP. The goal for this COP: a resolution by the Ad Hoc Working Group on LongTerm Collaborative Action for the establishment of a Work Program on Agriculture under the Subsidiary Body on Scientific and Technical Advice (SBSTA). I certainly hope that Canada supports this.

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