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Aiding Africa Through Climate-Smart Farming


FILE - A farmer plows the field in Saulawa village, on the outskirts of Nigeria's north-central state of Kaduna.

International alliance will include governments, farm groups, civil society organizations, research bodies, businesses and United Nations agencies.

The United States has long been committed to economic development and food security in Africa. Through a variety of programs, the U.S. has worked with African partners to help develop more productive seeds and fertilizers so small-holder farmers can grow more nutritious foods; develop broader agricultural markets for those crops; provide extension services, so farmers – especially women and girls - can learn the best techniques to grow and store their crops; and develop sustainable climate-smart agriculture strategies. That way, countries can feed their populations without depleting natural resources.

The U.S. also provides billions of dollars in emergency food assistance each year, so vulnerable populations can recover from food security crises caused by conflict and natural disasters.

Earlier this month, the United States took another step in this direction, announcing it will join a soon-to-be established international alliance of governments, farm groups, civil society organizations, research bodies, businesses and United Nations agencies cooperating to promote climate-smart agriculture. That’s an approach to increase farm productivity and resilience, especially among small-scale farmers, who are subject to climate-related agricultural shocks, like droughts or floods, while also sharing with them knowledge on adaptation techniques and technologies and mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture.

In the days following a meeting during the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, where the US Secretary of State announced the move, five African nations – Liberia, Niger, Malawi, Nigeria and Tanzania – said they too would take part in the effort. More countries are expected to announce their participation in the coming months.

The impact of global climate change is being felt around the world, and agricultural production in many places is at risk because of warmer temperatures, longer droughts, severe weather events and less predictable rainfall patterns. This obviously affects farm production. But at the same time, some farming techniques increase the vulnerability of small-scale farmers to climatic shocks. Inefficient tools, inadequate seed varieties or misguided farm management practices in many African nations have held back agricultural productivity significantly. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that between 1985 and 2008, farm output in sub-Saharan Africa increased by only about two percent.

The Global Alliance for Climate Smart Agriculture, to be launched at a U.N. Climate Summit in New York on September 23, will be a collaborative effort that brings together nations, multinational organizations, the private sector and civil society stakeholders to help farmers in Africa and around the world increase crop yields, incomes, food security and nutrition; build shorter-term resilience and longer-term adaptation to the climate changes already happening; and, where possible, reduce or remove emissions of the greenhouse gases linked to agriculture and associated land use changes.

The United States is a global leader in climate-smart agriculture, particularly through its Feed the Future and Global Climate Change initiatives. We are committed to supporting our African partners as they work to unlock the potential of the African farm sector to feed people, create jobs, increase incomes, and strengthen their resilience to a changing climate.

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