Farm Africa – the human response to climate change in Africa
The four countries of East Africa that receive support from Farm Africa, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and DR Congo, depend on small scale agriculture for their prosperity. More than 70% of the population is engaged in smallholdings for their livelihood. Although no longer food insecure generally, communities are vulnerable to the effects of environmental degradation, increasingly from climate change. These countries’ populations are increasingly dependent on how their natural resources are managed and adapted.
The climate crisis threatens to undermine the productivity of food systems through environmental shocks, degradation of the soils, forests, and lakes, and persistently inhospitable conditions. This is happening now with periods of drought and episodic flooding as temperatures rise across the region. Attendant plagues of locusts and other pests blight the landscape and the lives of local farmers.
Farm Africa supports the population to improve productivity in agriculture, aquaculture, forestry and livestock management extending to more than one million small holder farmers and agro-pastoralists by 2025. The support is over diverse landscapes including plains, forests, coastal areas and lakes.
Farm Africa is seen as a thought leader in market-based and participatory approaches to forest and rangeland management. Farm Africa initiated a scheme to enable local communities to earn income from the sale of carbon credits for avoided deforestation in Ethiopia’s Bale Eco-region in 2012. They supported local communities to sustainably manage the Nou Forest in Tanzania from 2007 to 2017. Farm Africa’s work on participatory forest management in Ethiopia has had an impact on harmonised national guidelines and regional forest policy in that country.
Farm Africa is developing a systemic approach to the climate crisis that is science led, market driven but seeks to bring about cultural change that nurtures the environment with an informed approach to land use. The driver of this is improved resilience and adaptive capacity of smallholder farmers to climate-induced impacts. Farm Africa is achieving transformation through improved farming practice, market engagement through cooperatives and relentless environmental stewardship.
Whilst Farm Africa is focused on developing expertise in core value chains of coffee, aquaculture horticulture , oilseed , sorghum, non-timber forest products and livestock, additional chains of national importance are being identified. The policy of understanding “food systems” helps farmers to make connections to market involving agri-tech, and finance. This approach educates youth and provides employment opportunities throughout the agricultural network which offers gender equality. Since 75% of the population is under the age of 35, this is regarded as a key aspect of Farm Africa’s social impact. The personal development and education of youth engaged in smallholder farming will determine the basis for their prosperity in the coming years.
Farm Africa’s strategy explicitly develops the existing body of the charity’s experience in agricultural technology, smallholder business and the potential sustainability of the soil to prepare for the worst shocks and transformations of climate change. For example, more crop types, soil management, climate sensitive techniques informed by research will increase resilience by increasing the adaptive capacity of farmers.
But more broadly, engagement with government research and links with private sector partners, particularly retailers, will underpin the government level partnerships that are vital to help these countries to survive climate change and transform their economies. This cannot happen without the mutual support of the great British general public and understanding about how this transformation can be achieved through the example of Farm Africa. This harvest festival appeal is a start to a partnership of great importance and influence in the human response to climate change.