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Taking Forward Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture: Implications for Africa

Following the ground-breaking decision at COP23 last year to advance work in the area of agriculture in the context of UNFCCC climate talks, Parties and observers now have two years to work on "bold actions" needed in agriculture before more specific ones are agreed upon in 2020.

At this event jointly organised by CUTS International and PACJA, agriculture and climate experts working across Africa reflected on the challenging road towards advancing the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture, and how developing countries can take the process forward to enable them to effectively deal with the impacts of climate change on their agriculture.

Climate change and agriculture are strongly interlinked, causing both positive and negative impacts on a country’s development, depending on its dependence on agriculture, its social structure, its poverty level, etc. While since COP17 Parties had been discussing scientific considerations of agriculture-related issues under the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA), COP23 brought a new focus on implementing actions through its decision on a Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture.

As the process starts, Parties and observers now have two years to work on "bold actions" needed in agriculture before more specific ones are agreed upon in 2020. While opening the session, Leslie Debornes, Assistant Programme Officer at CUTS International Geneva recalled that Africa is so far well represented in the Koronivia process, with a number of recent submissions emanating from the continent. The task ahead now is to ensure the needs of the African agricultural sector is reflected in the joint work.

Koronivia: An African Brainchild

George Wamukoya, Expert & Consultant on Climate Change and Agriculture, recalled that efforts that led to the Koronivia decision on agriculture emerged from the African Group. This long process originally started when experts from agricultural ministries across Africa first joined national negotiating teams in Copenhagen, a practice that has continued since then. Meeting shortly before COP23 last year, delegations from the Africa Group and G77 decided to call for inclusion of agriculture through a joint submission, of which a revised version was finally adopted as Koronivia. According to Mr. Wamukoya, the text was crafted in a manner that is simple, avoids wastage of words, and sticks to the substance”.

“It is an important decision. Not only does it broaden the scope of agriculture by breaking the dichotomy between adaptation and mitigation, it also brings implementation and science together”, he summarised.

Food Security: Focusing on Actions, not Talks

Sharing about the East African experience of developing a regional submission, Ladislaus Leonidas, Principal Environment and Natural Resources Officer at the EAC Secretariat, emphasised that a key objective of Koronivia is to enhance food security in the rural communities. This was echoed by Stephen Muwaya of the Ugandan Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, who stressed the need to help the rural agricultural population be better resilient to climate change, adding that efforts to implement Koronivia should also bring in gender considerations and ability to leverage the right technologies. He welcomed the new focus on implementation brought by Koronivia, will help ensure all parties and convention bodies support agriculture and mobilise the required resources including through the private sector.

“With support from CUTS, we were able to prepare and release a submission by East Africa, which will provide the foundations for our future roadmap”, said Mr. Muwaya.

While presenting key features of Kenya’s submission, Michael Okumu, Senior Assistant Director, Climate Change Directorate, Kenya Ministry of Environment and Forestry, recalled that agriculture contributes 65% of Kenyan exports and 75% of total employment. The sector is however highly vulnerable since only 33% of Kenyan agriculture is irrigated despite the aridity of the country’s climate in certain zones. Explaining the process for developing a national submission, he reported that wide stakeholder consultations were conducted country-wide, which first required raising their awareness of UNFCCC and Koronivia so they could contribute constructively. This was made possible through the involvement of both national and sub-national governments, as well as close cooperation between the ministries responsible for agriculture and environment respectively.

As reported by Mr. Okumu, Kenya’s expectations with regard to the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture is that it should address the vulnerabilities of agriculture and food systems to climate change through tangible results on the ground, where the actual implementation should be. There should be a way to practically address these vulnerabilities, and the required means of implementation should be availed in terms of technology, finance, information, training etc.

Bringing Gender in

The impacts of climate change on agriculture are not gender neutral. To ensure an effective implementation of the Koronivia Joint Work, there is a need to document the climate impacts on selected vulnerable communities. In this regard, Catherine Mungai of the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security called for enhanced efforts in compiling gender-disaggregated data, especially in the agriculture sector at the national level. Similarly, the youth should be involved as key implementation partners, and provided with role models and mentors.

Leveraging partnerships

Speaking on behalf of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Martial Bernoux, Natural Resources Officer, Climate Change Mitigation, explained that FAO realised several years ago the need to factor in climate change issues in order to address food insecurity. As a result, it started different initiatives to help better understand the effects of climate change on agriculture and food security, and has been helping climate negotiators on agriculture issues. For instance, FAO piloted the working group on agriculture under the NDC partnership, and is currently undertaking an analysis of all Koronivia submissions so far.

Mithika Mwenda, Secretary General, Pan African Climate Justice Alliance and co-organiser of the event, lamented that it took 20 years to bring climate change and agriculture together at UNFCCC. He remarked that civil society organizations and local communities had long felt there needed to be a clear differentiation between adaptation and mitigation. Nevertheless, he expressed excitement about the landmark Koronivia decision, which now broadens the discussion in the context of sustainable development. He underscored the need for proper implementation through a bottom-up approach, noting that failures are often due not to bad policies but rather bad implementation of existing good policies. This will require coordination between actors, policy makers, and communities of practice.

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