Liapeng Raliengoane
DUBAI – Today marked the second day of COP28 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates and more than 130 world leaders endorsed the ‘‘Emirates Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems and Climate Action.’’
This declaration is a product of one year of negotiations that were spearheaded by the COP28 Presidency on the one hand and the push from farmer groups and civil society organisations (CSOs) from Africa on the other.
In the declaration, the leaders specifically called for: Scaling-up of adaptation and resilience activities and responses in order to reduce the vulnerability of all farmers and fisherfolk through financial and technical support for solutions, capacity building, infrastructure, and innovations, including early warning systems, that promote sustainable food security, production and nutrition, while conserving, protecting and restoring nature.
Promoting food security and nutrition by increasing efforts to support vulnerable people through social protection programmes and focusing on the specific needs of women, children and youth, Indigenous Peoples and smallholder farmers.
Supporting workers in agriculture and food systems, including women and youth, whose livelihoods are threatened by climate change, to maintain inclusive and decent work.
Strengthening the integrated management of water in agriculture and food systems at all levels to ensure sustainability.
Last but not least, maximising the climate and environmental benefits associated with agriculture and food systems by conserving, protecting and restoring land and natural ecosystems, enhancing soil health, and biodiversity, and shifting from higher greenhouse gas-emitting practices to more sustainable production and consumption approaches.
Amy G Thorp, Senior Climate Adaptation and Resilience Policy Advisor at Power Shift Africa, said: ‘‘This declaration marks a significant step towards sustainable food systems in the world, especially in Africa where food security is a big concern.”
“A COP has finally recognised the urgency of transforming and adapting our food and agriculture systems to the climate crisis. To attain this sustainability, it is important to urgently increase access and scale of finance to agriculture and to provide technical support to farmers. The value of integrating local and Indigenous knowledge in agriculture cannot be overstated. By establishing social support programmes for vulnerable groups such as smallholders, women, youth, the fisherfolk and Indigenous groups, we make our food systems more inclusive and resilient.”
Thorp also highlighted that while the declaration is commendable, its omission of key aspects such as smallholder land rights, particularly for female farmers, the phase-out of toxic inputs and the imperative just transition to agroecology and food sovereignty is dangerous.
“We must seal these gaps as a matter of priority. This is key to fostering inclusivity, social justice and steering towards a genuinely transformative global food system.’’
Mwandwe Chileshe, the Director for Food Security, Agriculture and Nutrition at Global Citizen, remarked, “The Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture and Resilient Food Systems announced during the World Climate Action Summit at COP28, with over 130 signatories, is commendable. It represents a significant step forward, showcasing ambition.”
However, Chileshe said ambition must translate into action to break the common pattern of unfulfilled commitments. “We are well aware of the alarming statistics, regarding smallholder farmers who receive meagre percentages of climate financing. For African farmers whose livelihoods depend on this declaration, it’s a starting point, not the final destination.”