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Climate change is now a lived reality in many countries – what with the drastic and detrimental effects being felt through erratic rainfalls, droughts, tropical cyclones, heat waves, wildfires, landslides, floods, hurricanes as well as the gradual degradation of the environment. All these negatively impacting on our agriculture and food security; biodiversity and ecosystems; water resources; human health; human settlements and migration patterns; and energy, transport and industry[1].

In 2014, one key event to be on the look-out for is the Climate Summit to be held in New York in September 2014. The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has invited Heads of State and Government along with business, finance, civil society and local leaders to come together not to negotiate but rather to offer solutions for climate action. In his article for LinkedIN’s titled ‘Big idea 2014′ the UN Chief says “in 2014, we must turn the greatest collective challenge facing humankind today – climate change – into the greatest opportunity for common progress towards a sustainable future”. Among other things, the Summit is intended to mobilize political commitment for the conclusion of the universal and legally-binding comprehensive agreement to be signed in 2015. This is ahead of negotiations for the 20th and 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to be held in Lima, Peru (December 2014) and ultimately Paris, France (December 2015). It is hoped that the Summit will also spur action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and strengthen community adaptation strategies. Of course, beyond such global negotiations, interpreting the agreements for national implementation is crucial.

Needless to say, combating climate change is everyone’s business as it poses a clear danger to our lives and livelihoods. Each one of us has a critical role to play.

In Mali, the Minister of Environment and Sanitation, Mr. Ousmane Ag. Rhissa has invited the youth, women and men in Mali to join hands “every month, for one day, to clean-up our environment”. This he said during the opening session of the COGECLIMA[2] Capacity Building Workshop held in Bamako, Mali from 14th to 16th January 2014. Mr. Rhissa applauded the role played by the civil society organizations such as FEMNET-Mali in protecting and managing the environment and especially in climate change adaptation and mitigation projects. He noted that existing environmental and climate change policies need to be backed by a change in behaviour in how people manage and protect their own personal and communal environments. Indeed, cleaning the environment is everyone’s responsibility and not just the government’s.

African countries are highly vulnerable to climate changes effects such as droughts and irregular rainfall because much of their economy is highly dependent on rain-fed agriculture, fisheries, forestry, and livestock. According to the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)’s African Agriculture and Climate Change Country Summaries, “climate change is having far-reaching consequences for the poor and marginalized groups, among which the majority depend on agriculture for their livelihoods and have a lower capacity to adapt. This situation becomes more desperate and threatens the very survival of the most vulnerable farmers as global warming continues.”

As Heads of State and Government of the African Union (AU) dialogue on the theme of “Transforming Africa’s Agriculture: Harnessing Opportunities for Inclusive Growth and Sustainable Development” during the ongoing 22nd AU Summit taking place  from 21st to 31st January 2014 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – it is critical that they not only explore ways and commit to integrate climate change into the planning and implementation of sustainable agricultural strategies in their countries but also that any, and all climate change interventions/ strategies/ practices are gender-responsive.

By and large, Africa needs to adopt a common voice in defining her role in the emerging Global Alliance on Climate Smart Agriculture to be launched at the September 2014 Climate Summit.

Written by Rachel Kagoiya, Information Manager at FEMNET. Email: library@femnet.or.ke

 


[1] http://www.un.org/womenwatch/feature/climate_change/

[2] COGECLIMA is a coalition of different networks in Mali working to improve the livelihoods of women, men and youth through capacity building, advocacy and information sharing on issues such as: climate change adaptation and mitigation; gender equality as well as water and sanitation. FEMNET-Mali is among the founding members.

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