The COP27 held in November in Sharm El Sheikh will now be remembered for the agreement reached in favor of financing loss and damage suffered by the countries most affected by climate change. Agricultural and food issues have also gained momentum in the negotiations and should capture more climate finance in the coming years. Is this good news for developing the commitments of ECOWAS and its member states to adapt West African agriculture? Here is an insight from the five side events that discussed the conditions for successful climate adaptation in the sub-region.
On COP27 West African pavilion, several side events highlighted the results of 15 pilot projects on climate-smart agriculture and agro-ecology supported from 2020 to 2022 by GCCA+ West Africa (GCCA+ WA) - a regional project for the implementation of the Paris Agreement financed by the European Union and implemented by Expertise France under the political leadership of ECOWAS and in partnership with the CILSS. These pilot projects mainly aimed to contribute to the adaptation of West African agriculture to climate change. Agriculture is subject to more frequent extreme weather and climate phenomena, which affects the ability of communities to produce and feed themselves. It also generates certain negative impacts, which underscore the importance of its transition to climate-smart agriculture (CSA) and agroecology (AE).
Under what conditions can these local initiatives be scaled up? The international panelists invited by ECOWAS and Expertise France discussed the issue from several complementary angles: capacity building, access to climate services and data, water resource management, the risk of maladaptation to climate change, funding and scaling up to national and regional levels.
Priority to the reinforcement of local capacities and the valorization of farmers' knowledge
In Sierra Leone, for example, the pilot project run by Action Against Hunger (ACF) has demonstrated that intercropping cassava with groundnuts is a sustainable land management practice that has the potential to improve land productivity and soil organic carbon. For Marie Cosquer, ACF analyst, the valorization of farmers' knowledge and capacity building of local actors - "the main stakeholders" - was key to achieving multiplier effects. "The debate and funding should not be monopolized by the private sector and technological solutions. It is a deeper issue of climate justice and human rights.”
Giuliana Sardo, who came to represent the COSPE association, which has trained women in agricultural cooperativism in Cape Verde, particularly recommends participatory action-research approaches to ensure the sustainability of climate-smart agricultural practices.
Provide weather and climate data as close to the field as possible
As a technical partner of the GCCA+ WA project, the Permanent Inter-State Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS) is equipping villages and observers with smartphones to collect weather data and make tactical decisions about adapting agriculture to climate change, such as choosing the right planting date.
"This is particularly crucial in African regions where data is lacking at the risk and vulnerability analysis stage," says Fabris Compaoré, deputy representative and M&E manager for GCCA+ WA. "A climate-smart agriculture solution can be adapted for one location but rarely for another, as conditions vary and need to be known precisely.”
"Even if this need for customization is a challenge to scale up our climate information projects, we have no choice but to take up this challenge, as climate variability is increasing" recognizes Ousmane Ndiaye - Director of Meteorological Operations at ANACIM Senegal.
Moving from local to national and regional scales
For Jacques André Ndione, coordinator of the regional CSA promotion project implemented by the Regional Agency for Food and Agriculture (RAAF), "today we all agree that the climate crisis is putting us at risk, but climate finance still lacks critical mass in West Africa”. Also, to reduce dependence on external public aid, a stronger mobilization of the private sector and, therefore, a better profitability of CSA and agroecology are encouraged by ECOWAS through financial incentives.
The ECOWAS Regional Climate Strategy (RCS) adopted in June 2022, which will structure the region's climate action, should also enable ECOWAS to activate the necessary levers for the scaling up of CSA and agroecology techniques that have been capitalized. In fact, the RCS agriculture component provides an entire expected result dedicated to the CSA promotion, including agroecological practices, aimed in particular at operationalizing the West African Alliance for CSA, capitalizing on the numerous field projects precisely to optimize the scaling up, develop training programs on the results of good practices, but also increase the mobilization of funding for CSA through the ECOWAS Regional Fund for Agriculture and Food as well as the development of insurance tools for farmers who face the impacts of climate change.
Sustainable management of water resources
The regional capitalization of the pilot projects supported by GCCA+ WA has demonstrated that good practices in CSA and agroecology are essential tools for managing water resources and achieving the climate objectives of West African public policies. In Cape Verde, where some islands have not received rain for four years, the innovative water optimization techniques in agroforestry tested by ADPM are now being closely monitored by the Cape Verdean Ministry of Agriculture, as explained by its Environment Director, Alexandre Nevsky Rodrigues.
Anticipating the risks of maladaptation and working on synergies between agroecology and climate-smart agriculture
The synergies between CSA and agroecology are ultimately numerous according to Felix Kalaba, lead author of the Africa chapter of Working Group II of the IPCC's Sixth Assessment Report: "We need to resolve our experts debates because on the ground, farmers faced with the adverse effects of climate change simply want to be more resilient, to produce affordably, to have access to markets, to sell products, to have income. Both CSA and agroecology can help them in this direction, there are many synergies. Alexandre Magnan, a fellow IPCC member, also concluded on the importance of taking into account the environmental, social and economic interactions of adaptation projects. And this from the project design stage: "avoiding maladaptations relies to a large extent on not reproducing past and current errors, particularly empirical experience in land use planning and natural risk management".