Address by President Jacob Zuma on the occasion of the COP 17 High Level Side Event on Climate-smart Agriculture, Durban
7 Dec 2011Honourable Ministers,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is generally accepted that by 2050, there will be more than nine billion people in the world.
If this is true, agricultural production must increase by 70 percent in order to feed our growing population. Agriculture is more vulnerable to climate change than any other sector. Climate changes create risks and uncertainty with potentially serious downsides. Without strong adaptation measures, climate change could reduce food crop production by 10 to 20 percent by the 2050s, with more severe losses in Africa.
Climate-smart agriculture seeks to enhance agricultural productivity by improving on resilience. Farmers should be at the centre of this transformation of the agriculture sector. Improved agricultural practices have the potential to increase crop yields, diversify income sources and reduce the vulnerability of small farmers to climate change.
Climate-smart agriculture includes proven practical techniques – such as mulching, intercropping, conservation agriculture, crop rotation, integrated crop-livestock management, agro-forestry, improved grazing, and improved water management – and innovative practices such as better weather forecasting, more resilient food crops, and risk insurance.
No one knows exactly how the future global climate will develop and what the resultant consequences will be to all of us particularly the developing and poor countries, but impacts could be considerable.
Food security, especially in Africa, is linked to the prevailing climate.
Any long or short term changes thereof are paramount to our ability to feed our nations with high quality, affordable and accessible staple foods. Food security is important to Africa's economy as it impacts heavily on the countries’ poverty alleviation and sustainable development plans, including Millennium Development Goals.
Agriculture has a huge potential to cost-effectively reduce greenhouse gases through changes in agricultural technologies and management practices, in particular in developed countries. Improvements in water conservation and demand management and its spatial distribution, will intensify the need for safer water purification, storage, and management.
Equally important is supporting innovative institutional mechanisms that give agricultural water users incentives to conserve. Investments in rural infrastructure, both physical (such as roads, market buildings, and storage facilities) and institutional (such as extension programs, credit and input markets, and reduced barriers to internal trade) are needed to enhance the resilience of agriculture in the face of the doubts of climate change.
We need to link climate change, food security and poverty; we need to engage on emerging issues including finance and technological support and approaches such as Climate-Smart Agriculture that are geared towards addressing food security, adaptation and mitigation.
Research must help us to identify early actions and best practices to build capacity and increase resilience and carbon sequestration, while enhancing and ensuring food security. Current and on-going awareness programmes should assist the farming communities to put into place best farming practices which will promote sustainable agriculture and thereby contributing towards the green economy.
The ruin of natural resources (land, water, and biological diversity) threatens the livelihoods of the poor, particularly in rural areas, where they rely heavily on them. Increasing poverty, in turn, limits the range of available options with regard to the sustainable management of these finite resources. The exhaustion of natural resources contributes directly to the scourge of climate change.
The African continent is one of those continents which will be badly affected by climate change. In spite of recent economic growth in many countries of the region, poverty continues to be Africa’s overwhelming development challenge.
This is associated in most cases with insufficient access to modern energy and other basic infrastructure like safe drinking water and sanitation, irrigation for crops and well-maintained rural roads. In the coming decades, in an effort to meet the Millennium Development Goals on poverty and hunger, the agriculture need to develop and grow at an exceptional absolute rate involving intensification of crop and animal production.
While this growth must target the needs of increasing population, it will certainly put an extra pressure on agricultural lands and will have to be achieved against reduced water availability, in particular in the agriculture-based economies. Good farming practices follow ecosystem-based approaches designed to improve sustainability of crop-livestock production systems, aiming to meet consumer needs for high quality, safe products produced in an environmentally and socially responsible way.
Evidence suggests that market incentives and the right mix of policy instruments can improve sustainable farming practices and farmers’ incomes. Governments should consider promoting organic farming systems. Organic agriculture has a smaller footprint on the natural resource base and the health of agricultural workers than conventional agriculture.
In short, Food security, poverty and climate change are closely linked and should not be considered separately. Climate-smart agriculture offers a “triple win” for food security, adaptation, and mitigation.
Climate-smart farming techniques such as mulching, crop remainder management, and soil and water conservation measures, can increase farm productivity and incomes, and make agriculture more resilient to climate change, while also contributing to mitigation.
Adaptation enhances food security and can potentially contribute to reducing agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions. Strong adaptation measures, as well as the financing required to support them, are essential if we are to reach our poverty alleviation and food security goals. We should not separate agricultural productivity, strengthening farmers’ resilience to climate change and take away carbon. Many programs across the globe as well as here in Africa have applied this integrated approach.
This COP 17 meeting represents a unique opportunity for Africa to shape the global climate agenda and strengthen the focus on climate change and agriculture through a work program on adaptation, and a separate work program on mitigation, both of which must be are informed by science.
Climate-smart agriculture provides for an environmentally sound and affordable way for smallholders to intensify production in marginal areas and offers promising export opportunities for developing countries which have in many cases an inherent comparative advantage due to relatively abundant labour supply and relatively low use of agro-chemicals.
Several studies show that the use of organic methods of farming by small producers in developing countries can lead to an increase in crop yields and thus enhance food security among the poor. Sustainable crop and livestock systems provide ecosystem services that restore productivity, conserve soil, water and biodiversity, take away carbon, regulate climate and provide landscape and cultural values.
Policies that address the drivers of land ruin and build capacities at all levels for sustainable land use and wide adoption of sustainable land management practices need to be developed and adapted to local circumstances. It is equally important to provide incentives for producers to encourage sustainable farming practices and investments in soil conservation and water use efficiency.
These are some of the reasons why countries of the world should consider adopting climate-smart agriculture or sustainable agriculture as some of us call it. Climate-smart agriculture seeks to increase sustainable productivity, strengthen farmers’ resilience, reduce agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions and increase carbon sequestration. It strengthens food security and delivers environmental benefits.
Governments can direct public investments, institutional reforms, and development programs towards smallholders in ways that encourage further public and private agricultural and rural development investments.
Investments in agriculture development and incentives provided to local farmers must be complemented by macro-economic policies to ensure sustainability. Investments in core public goods, science, infrastructure, and human capital, combined with better policies and institutions, are major drivers of agricultural productivity growth.
It is clear that climate change poses a serious threat not only to agricultural production but the economy as a whole. By tackling climate change in a coordinated effort we will increase the positive spin-offs and benefits to the agricultural communities and economy.
Thank you once again for the opportunity to address you on this important topic, during these critical discussions on saving humanity and the future. I thank you.
Issued by: The Presidency
7 Dec 2011
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