Farmers left in the cold as COP 21 draft agreement ignores agriculture

By Mantoe Phakathi *Africa Green Media
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By Mantoe Phakathi

African farmers are rejecting the excuse by negotiators that, if agriculture is to be included in the agreement, other sectors will also demand recognition. Registering the disappointment on realising the draft text of the Paris agreement does not recognise agriculture as an independent sector, Dr Theo de Jager, the president of the Southern African Confederation of Agricultural Union (SACAU) blamed the attitude of negotiators towards the sector.

“There is a league of poorest nations which we hear is resisting to have agriculture included,” de Jager told Africa Green Media. “If forestry is recognised in the agreement, why not agriculture?”

As the climate negotiations are in their last and most crucial week before an anticipated deal is sealed on Friday, he  said incorporating agriculture as part of food security in the text is not good enough.

“Agriculture is about the people, their livelihoods. It goes beyond food security,” said de Jarger, who is also the president of Pan African Farmers Organisation (PAFO).

He said this was illogical considering that more than half of the African population is dependent on agriculture for its livelihood, and that 80% of the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) recognise the sector as a high priority area. The INDCs identifies the actions a national government intends to take under the COP 21 deal.

De Jager, who as president of SACAU is representing 17 farmers’ organisations from 12 countries in the region currently undergoing the worst drought ever, felt that there was a good chance that African farmers could make use of climate-smart agriculture (CSA), if only they could get support to deal with climate change so that the sector is more profitable. He said farmers need to be assisted to start making a decent living from the land so that they also appreciate the benefits of CSA.

“How do you tell a farmer from Swaziland to practise climate smart agriculture when she or he is worried about feeding his or her family?” he wondered.

He further called on to negotiators to consider agriculture adding that building resilience to the sector through CSA is more critical considering the impact climate change is already having on farmers.

“We are the first victims of climate change,” said.

Also adding his voice to the call for the recognition of agriculture in the Paris outcome was CSA Ambassador and Lesotho Prince, Seeiso Barang Seeiso.

Speaking on Farmers Day on December 02, Prince Seeiso observed that agriculture is caught between two conflicting pressures – on the one hand it needs to reduce its carbon footprint (23% of GHG) while intensifying production yields.

“We have been talking today about the merits of climate-smart agriculture which offers the opportunity to design best options to tackle food security as well as to reach a resilient agriculture that also contributes to mitigating climate change,” said Prince Seeiso.

He called for a COP 21 outcome that will make a significant difference in many    decades to come. Prince Seeiso called for a movement that that demonstrates success when it comes to CSA by showing what works and, for practices that do not work, how can they be improved.

“This requires investments and our hope for COP21 is a deal that recognises and safeguards food systems and our landscapes,” said Prince Seeiso.