AFRICAN finance ministers meeting this week at the Annual Meetings of the African Development Bank, AfDB, must step up and respond to the super-El Niño events ravaging East and Southern Africa.
According to a statement issued by Oxfam at the ongoing AFDB meetings in Lusaka, Zambia, on May 24, and made available to Realnews, over 50 million people face food shortages across Eastern, Horn and Southern Africa due to poor harvests last season and extreme El Niño weather.
Sipho Mthathi, executive director of Oxfam South Africa, said: “This year’s annual meetings present a strategic moment for the AfDB to show leadership and solidarity with African countries grappling with the humanitarian crisis caused by the climate change supercharged-El Niño. The Bank should steer the continent towards clean, pro-poor energy and help small farmers adapt to increasingly unpredictable weather patterns.”
Due to El Niño-induced droughts and floods in East and Southern Africa, millions of people do not have enough to eat or access to clean water. People had to sell their assets, and many have lost livestock. This has left millions in a precarious situation, ahead of an even longer lean season. Humanitarian needs will soon grow or even double in some regions. There’s a 75 percent chance that La Niña will hit in late 2016, which would further exacerbate the crisis.
These kinds of shocks are becoming the new normal as climate change takes grip, yet the continent is woefully underprepared to cope. In southern Africa, where this year’s meetings are taking place, dependency on rain-fed agriculture and on climate-vulnerable maize puts food security at risk. The AfDB policies should focus on helping vulnerable communities adapt and become more resilient.
In Southern Africa, the El Nino-driven drought has drained most reservoirs to critical levels – causing major power shortage in a region that already suffers from poor access to energy. The Bank should increase financing of clean and sustainable energy, especially off-grid renewables which can be quickly deployed and are often cheaper than electricity from the grid.
Gender equality is also high on Oxfam’s agenda at the annual meetings. Women farmers are on the front line of climate change, yet are also the region’s first line of defence against food insecurity.
Mthathi noted: “Women farmers in Africa face tremendous challenges, especially when it comes to access to finance. We need to see a transformation in our policies and thinking and put smallholder women farmers and producers at the heart of agricultural infrastructure investment.
“Countries should move away from prioritizing big businesses at the expense of the needs of small family farmers and women. Large Public Private Partnerships, PPP, are attractive, but the human costs of them are too high.”
Oxfam research has shown that the mega-PPP model is an unproven and high-risk approach to agricultural development, with the poorest communities – rather than the project partners – often bearing the brunt of the risks associated in relation to land rights, environmental degradation or restricted access to natural resources such as water.
African governments need to invest public funds in women smallholder farmers and help them adapt to climate change. The recent extreme weather shocks have shown the urgent need to invest in climate-resilient, sustainable agriculture. They must also ensure that they can sell their produce in local and national markets and encourage the development of small-and medium size enterprises.
The AfDB must encourage governments and development partners to promote and attract responsible private sector investment into smallholder and women farmers. These sustainable developments will create jobs and spur economic growth.
— May 25, 2016 @ 13:40 GMT