On 23 November, the EAC High-Level Forum on Climate Change and Food Security was held in Arusha, Tanzania, where the Summit of the EAC Heads of State was in agreement that increased investment in climate-smart agriculture and renewable energy is the best approach to mitigating the impact of climate change and improving access to and availability of food for their citizens. The Heads of State further agreed that there was a need to improve rainwater harvesting to ensure increased availability of water for irrigation agriculture.
The Summit also agreed to reduce post-harvest losses of food through the adoption of modern technologies that will ensure better storage and distribution of agricultural products. They were also in consensus that increasing forest cover and protecting the existing ones will increase the region's and Africa’s prospects in carbon trading and climate financing vis-à-vis the rest of the world. Further, they noted the importance of establishing a platform to share experiences on environmental sustainability, disaster management and cross-border management of natural resources.
Speaking at the forum, H.E. Evariste Ndayishimiye, the Chairperson of the Summit and President of Burundi, said that his country has nine months of rain annually but is taking measures to become more climate resilient. He added that Burundi was investing in agroforestry to protect its land against soil erosion, adding that the country embarked on an afforestation programme five years ago to ensure that its landscape was covered by forests. President Ndayishimiye called for joint efforts in the mobilisation of resources to mitigate the effects of climate change and enhance environmental sustainability.
On her part, Tanzania’s President Mama Samia Hassan Suluhu underscored the importance of climate-smart agriculture in increasing food production, adding that the private sector has a crucial role to play in the initiative, e.g., in post-harvest agro-processing and value addition, and that the government was also facilitating irrigation schemes by building dams to harvest rainwater.
She disclosed that Tanzania was investing in climate-smart technologies through the Build Better Tomorrow initiative, which is aimed at increasing the involvement of youth and women in agriculture to boost agricultural production and reduce poverty while conserving the environment. Additionally, the government was facilitating access to climate financing by encouraging commercial banks to lend to green projects. To reduce greenhouse gas emissions, President Suluhu said that Tanzania has dedicated 25% of its national land to forests, saying this would serve as a carbon sink, with the private sector also being encouraged to venture into carbon sinking.
In his remarks, Kenya’s President William Ruto said that his country has prioritised the conservation of its water towers that are being fenced to guard against encroachment and destruction. He described Kenya as 80% arid and semi-arid, saying that the country doesn’t have enough rain but has adequate water.
President Ruto said that the government had hired 1,000 new forest rangers to ensure that there was adequate human capital to protect the national forest cover and reiterated the country’s commitment to plant 15 billion trees over the next 10 years to protect its environment and conserve its water towers. “We are also making use of the National Youth Service by converting them into a green army to ensure that we don’t just plant but grow trees. It is easier to plant than to grow trees,” said President Ruto, adding that the country was growing trees for the twin objectives of protecting the environment and making money through carbon trading. On rainwater harvesting, he said that Kenya will build 100 mega dams for purposes of increasing food production through irrigation and that there are plans to increase the acreage under irrigation from 600,000 to 2 million acres.
President Ruto said that the country had registered 6.5 million farmers and distributed subsidised fertilisers to them by eliminating brokers, middlemen and cartels.
On his part, Rwandan Prime Minister Edouard Ngirente, who represented President Paul Kagame at the forum, said that the country had opted to create synergies between the government and the private sector to increase investment in agriculture, which is largely considered a risky sector by investors.
PM Ngirente disclosed that the government was investing in viable infrastructure, including feeder roads and affordable financing at single-digit interest rates to promote investment in agriculture. He added that Rwanda was investing in cold rooms and storage facilities to manage post-harvest losses that he said were as high as 40% in Africa. He revealed that the country had established the Ireme Fund to increase investment in climate-smart agriculture and climate change mitigation.
Speaking on behalf of President Yoweri Museveni, Uganda’s 1st Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for EAC Affairs, Right Hon. Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga, said that Uganda was evicting people from its wetlands due to excessive use and abuse that has had devastating impacts on the environment. The government was relocating those evicted from wetlands to other areas and encouraging them to undertake more environment-friendly activities such as cage farming and soil cultivation.
The 1st Deputy Prime Minister emphasised the importance of good food storage facilities, noting that Africa was a land of contradictions whereby some countries could be under severe drought, yet others were experiencing bumper harvests, adding that suitable storage facilities would ensure the availability and access to food for all. She called for optimal use of the Congo and Nile rivers’ basins to increase the continent’s food production potential.
GIZ supports EAC integration in ten different sectors, including the Environment and Natural Resources Management sector, whose objective is to promote sustainable use and management of natural resources and adaptation to climate change, and the Agriculture and Food Security sector, whereby the focus is to enhance agricultural development through promoting inclusive and integrated agro-processing value chains with a special focus on private sector involvement and improved framework conditions, including quality infrastructure, standards and customs procedures.
Find more information on GIZ support to Environment and Natural Resources Management here.
Find more information on GIZ support to Agriculture and Food Security here.
Read more on the forum here.