Climate change vulnerability and food insecurity often have common root causes. Accordingly, measures that address these causes can reduce both problems at once. This is especially important for the many countries in sub-Saharan Africa that face truly daunting agricultural challenge.
Production of staple crops, such as maize, is under increasing risk in Africa because of climate change and depleting soil fertility. The potential consequences for food security are dire. Climate change and food security must be tackled together.
Modern methods of agroforestry and “conservation agriculture with trees” are employing age-old indigenous practices of natural fertilisation with dramatic effects. Field studies show that growing maize under “fertiliser trees” can more than triple the yields.
“Evergreen agriculture” practices (where trees are intercropped in annual food crop and livestock systems) help retain water in soils during droughts and prevent landslides and erosion during heavy rain, so reduce vulnerability to climate extremes.
The capacity for these practices to also retain and store carbon in soils means that the potential climate change mitigation benefits of wide-scale evergreen agriculture in Africa are large and globally significant – potentially up to 50 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide over 50 years.
The challenge of spreading the knowledge and uptake of evergreen agriculture and other “climate-smart” agriculture practices is being taken on as a priority by regional governance bodies in Africa.
Payments for ecosystem and social impact services may be one means to fund the practical on-farm research, testing and knowledge transfer needed for adoption on a wide scale. Carbon funds, from biocarbon projects, are one possible source of finance, but uptake is still at very low levels.
The costs of measurement, reporting and verification can be prohibitive and new methods are needed.
Supported NAMAs (nationally appropriate mitigation actions) programs of evergreen agriculture could be a new approach and play a key role in Africa low carbon development strategies.