Africa: Smallholder Farmers Gain Least From International Climate Funding


Despite producing a third of the world’s food and having the key to climate-proofing food systems, smallholder farmers from the Global South get a grossly disproportionate 0.3% of international climate money. This is despite smallholder farmers possessing the key to climate-proofing food systems.

Out of the total amount of USD 8.4 billion that was allocated to the agricultural sector in 2021, around USD 2 billion was allocated to family farmers and rural communities through both public and private international climate funds. This was the case despite the fact that over 2.5 billion people throughout the world relied on farms for their livelihoods.

The USD 8.4 billion was over half of the USD 16 billion that was made available for the energy sector. However, this amount is only a fraction of the projected USD 300–350 billion that is required annually to “create more sustainable and resilient food systems,” according to the findings of a recent analysis.

According to the findings of research on global public funding for climate mitigation and adaptation undertaken by the Dutch climate consultancy business Climate Focus, the sum was also very different from the USD 170 billion that smallholder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa alone would require each year.

Given the impact that climate change is having on food production and the amount to which food and agriculture are fueling the crisis in climate and biodiversity, the low level of climate financing that is being provided for agriculture, forestry, and fisheries is cause for worry.

According to the findings of the study, the effects of climate change have resulted in a 21 percent decrease in agricultural production, while the food and agriculture industry as a whole is responsible for 29 percent of greenhouse gas emissions and 80 percent of worldwide deforestation.

Despite the fact that they are the driving force behind rural economic expansion, global climate financiers have ignored the concerns of farmers and excluded them from the decision-making processes regarding food and the climate. This is especially true in Sub-Saharan Africa, where smallholder farmers account for up to 80 percent of agricultural production and the sector is responsible for 23 percent of the regional gross domestic product.

It is shown that 80 percent of worldwide public climate money spent on the agri-food industry is funneled via governments and non-governmental organizations from donor countries. This makes it difficult for smallholder farmers’ groups to gain access to the funding. This is due to the complicated eligibility regulations and application processes, as well as the lack of information regarding how and where applicants may submit their applications.

According to the findings, a significant number of family farmers do not have the infrastructure, technology, or resources necessary to adapt to the effects of climate change. This has significant repercussions, not just for the food security of the world but also for rural economies.

According to the report titled “Untapped Potential: An Analysis of International Public Climate Finance Flows to Sustainable Agriculture and Family Farmers,” which was released on November 14th, researchers lament the fact that just one fifth of international public climate financing for food and agriculture supports sustainable practices. The majority of the money is sent to countries in the global north, despite the fact that agriculture is now the leading cause of biodiversity loss and the third largest contributor to global emissions.

“Climate change is having a negative impact on crops and is contributing to the rise in food prices throughout the world. Since 2019, it has contributed to the hunger of 122 million people throughout the world. According to a paper that was created for the benefit of eleven farmer groups in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Pacific, “We need to create more sustainable and resilient food systems that can feed people in a changing climate, but we can’t do this without family farmers.”

“Family farmers are also essential to the process of adapting to climate change. They are at the vanguard of the transition to food systems that are more diversified and friendly to the environment. This change is required, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in order to ensure food security in a climate that is changing. The report also emphasizes that they have taken this initiative.

The World Rural Forum serves as the organization’s leader, and it is comprised of several African organizations, such as the Eastern Africa Farmers Federation, the Eastern and Southern Africa small-scale Farmers Forum, the Regional Platform of Farmers’ Organizations in Central Africa, and the Network of West African Farmers’ and Producers’ Organizations. The Union of North African Farmers and the Maghreb in Northern Africa are also members of the group.

In addition, the research includes the participation of the Asian Farmers Association for Sustainable Rural Development, the Pacific Island Farmers Organization Network, the Confederation of Family Producers’ Organizations of Greater Mercosur, and the Regional Rural Dialogue Programme.

Many of the farmers are already employing climate-resilient agricultural practices. These include methods such as agroecology, which entails growing a wider variety of crops, including traditional ones; combining agriculture with livestock, forestry, and fisheries; reducing the amount of agricultural chemicals used; and establishing robust connections to regional markets.

The study that was conducted by the new alliance of farmer networks representing over 35 million smallholder producers in advance of COP28, which is scheduled to reach an agreement on a Global Goal for Adaptation, is concerned about the fact that since 2012, in total, only 11% of international public climate finance has been targeted at agriculture, forestry, and fishing, which amounts to an average of USD 7 billion each year.

In the year 2021, the World Bank, Germany, the Green Climate Fund, and the institutions of the European Union each donated around half, or 54 percent, amounting to a total of USD 4 billion. On the other hand, the top receivers were Nigeria, India, and Ethiopia, who received a combined USD 1.8 billion. It was shown that some of the nations with the worst food insecurity in the world, such as Sudan, Sierra Leone, and Zambia, each got less than 20 million USD in aid.

“As the climate crisis pushes the global food system ever closer to collapse, it is vital that governments recognize family farmers as powerful partners in the fight against climate change,” according to the report.

The head of the Eastern and Southern Africa small-scale Farmers Forum, Hakim Baliriane, made the following observation: “Climate change has helped push 122 million people into hunger since 2019.” In the event that governments continue to stifle the entrepreneurial spirit of millions of family farmers, it will be impossible to buck this trend.

According to the findings of this study, small-scale family farms are those that are less than two hectares in size and are located primarily in developing nations.

On the other hand, the term “international climate finance” is a wide term that refers to funding that is directed toward “activities that have a stated objective to mitigate climate change or support adaptation.” These include multilateral flows both inside and outside of the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement, as well as bilateral flows at national and regional levels, such as the Global Environment Facility, Adaptation Fund, and Green Climate Fund, and they are often distributed in the form of grants and concessional loans.

According to the findings of the study, family farms are not only essential to the functioning of rural economies but also provide a means of subsistence for over 2.5 billion people all over the world. It is stated that agriculture accounts for 23 percent of the total gross domestic product in the region of Sub-Saharan Africa. This is true despite the fact that smallholder farmers perform up to 80% of all farming.

Family farmers are particularly essential to climate adaptation because they are at the vanguard of the movement toward more “diverse, nature-friendly food systems,” which, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), are essential to maintaining food security in the face of a changing climate.

It was discovered that millions of smallholder farmers are already practicing agriculture that is climate-resilient. These farmers are using methods such as agroecology, which involves growing a wider variety of crops, including traditional crops; combining crops, livestock, forestry, and fisheries; reducing the use of agrochemicals; and building “strong connections to local markets.”

The report comes to the conclusion that governments need to guarantee that accessible climate funding for environmentally sustainable and climate-resilient practices, including that of agroecological systems, is enhanced.

The following is an explanation of what this implies: “This means funds to support diverse, nature-friendly approaches and to create community-based solutions that build on traditional expertise and experience.”

It suggests that small-scale family farmers ought to have direct access to more climate finance and that financing structures and funds have to be designed with the cooperation of farmer groups in order to suit their requirements. In addition, it suggests that more climate money ought to be made available.

In addition, there should be measures made to provide financing that is flexible and available over a longer period of time so that communities may choose their own priorities.

Farmers should be allowed a “real say” in decision-making on food and climate at all levels, including the local, national, regional, and international levels. Farmers play a crucial role as potent catalysts for climate action, transformation of the food system, and protection of biodiversity. This role should be acknowledged, and farmers should be given a “real say.” Taking this into consideration should involve making judgments on land reform and agricultural subsidies.

The COP28 conference that will take place in Dubai at the end of this month will focus heavily on food system issues.

According to a research published in August by ActionAid in the United Kingdom, climate adaption and green transition efforts in the Global South got 20 times less money in the previous seven years than the biggest global polluters, fossil fuels, and intensive agriculture sectors. This finding was made public in the report.

It was discovered that major banking conglomerates have sponsored the operations of polluters in the southern hemisphere to the tune of USD 3.2 trillion since 2015, which was the year that the Paris Agreement on Climate was enacted. Bayer, a multinational agricultural corporation based in Germany, was the largest beneficiary of the funding, having obtained an estimated 20.6 billion USD during the year 2016.


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