Disaster menace - A Call to Introspection for African Experts on Sustainable Environmental Management
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25 October 2019 Author :   Friday Phiri

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (PAMACC News) - “Disasters, particularly related to hydro-meteorological hazards, extreme climate and weather phenomena are increasing across Africa. On average, Africa suffers approximately two disasters per week, 8 deaths per day,” said African Union Commission (AUC) Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture, Ambassador Josefa Sacko, at the official opening ceremony of the Ministerial segment of the 3rd Ordinary session of the Specialized Technical Committee (STC) on Agriculture, Rural Development, Water and Environment.

By all standards, the figures are alarming, and a timely call to action for African experts on Agriculture, Rural economy, Water and Environment, who have this week been meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The key objective of the STC is to review the relevant strategic goals, linkages, progress and pitfalls,and their implications on the achievement of the continent’s set goals as set out in various strategic documents such as the Malabo Declaration; the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) and the ten-year implementation plan of Agenda 2063.

The SCT, segmented in two parts; starts with technical work by experts followed a policy session attended by Ministers responsible for Agriculture, Rural Development, Water and Environment.

Officially opening the meeting, AUC Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture, Ambassador Josefa Sacko underscored the importance of environmental sustainability as a cornerstone for promoting and ensuring food security in Africa.

“We have the honour and the arduous duty of promoting and ensuring food security and safety, climate change adaptation, resilience to disasters and droughts and environmental sustainability in Africa. Building resilience in arid and semi-arid regions of the continent and supporting land tenure reforms that specifically address the inherent challenges for women in particular are critical areas that we must address. It is also our mandate to assist Member States to rationally manage and utilize the vast natural resources of our continent ranging from fisheries, water, land, forests, wildlife and biodiversity,” said Ambassador Sacko.

Amid the climate crisis, building resilience is the buzz word globally. And for Africa, climate adaptation is not an option but a necessity due to the continent’s majority population’s dependence on natural resource sensitive sectors for livelihood.

“To ensure a coordinated and synergistic implementation of these programmes, we have developed a draft Strategy for the Division of Environment, Climate Change, Water and Land Management in line with AU Medium Term Plan to enhance resource mobilization and programme delivery. We are the flag bearer in the global environmental discussion, articulating African priorities and concerns and ensuring a fair deal for our continent especially in arena of climate change, biodiversity and desertification negotiations,” she added.

And to highlight the magnitude of the environmental challenge, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), reports that this year alone, over 45 million people across Africa, mostly in Eastern and Southern Africa, are food insecure due to prolonged droughts.

This came to light when the Africa Risk Capacity (ARC) and the UNCCD announced a partnership to support the development of financial tools to help Africa to adapt and become resilient to future drought and other extreme weather events.
And the AUC is not leaving disaster risk reduction to chance. According to Commissioner Sacko, it is one of the priority agenda for the Department of Rural Economy and Agriculture.

“Cognizant of this reality, plans are ongoing to establish a continental early warning and preparedness system at AUC as a way of improving analysis and early-warning capabilities of weak countries with the support of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO),” she disclosed.

Ambassador Sacko further highlighted other initiatives with regards to sustainable environment and natural resources management, which include the Great Green Wall Initiative, the Sharm El-Sheik Commitments on Water and sanitation, forestry and wildlife strategies as well as climate change adaptation and mitigation measures including the African Regional Programme on Disaster Risk Reduction, the Global Frame for Climate Services and the AMCOMET Strategy on Meteorology.

On the Agricultural front, the Commissioner gave progress review on the implementation of decisions and recommendations from the last STC in 2017, as well as highlighting programmes and initiatives, the most recent being the launch of the Campaign to ‘Retire the Hand held Hoe to the Museum,’ through promoting Sustainable Agricultural Mechanisation in Africa (SAMA).

Following a request by the last STC, “We had worked assiduously with FAO, member states and several other stakeholders to develop the Framework for Sustainable Agricultural Mechanization in Africa (SAMA). This document that has ten priority elements was launched at the FAO Headquarters in Rome, Italy in October 2018,” she said. “Efforts are now being made to disseminate this document and assist African countries to develop their sustainable mechanization strategies drawing from this Framework.”

And Chairperson of the STC and Minister of Agriculture of Burkina Faso, SalifouOuedraogo, highlighted the need for member states to operationalize the SAMA and support the continent’s zero hunger agenda.

Overall, the projected population growth which is set to hit 2.4 billion by 2050, is set to bring along an added task of doubling production to meet increasing food demand, coupled with rapid urbanization and changing food systems.  

Therefore, the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), which calls for enhanced agricultural transformation, wealth creation, food security and nutrition, economic growth and prosperity for all, still remains key in the realisation of Agenda 2063.

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