The Global Center on Adaptation (GCA) opened a 3-day regional training on the future of resilient food systems in Africa to promote digital climate-informed solutions (DCAS) as a tool to help tackle the growing impacts of climate change across the continent on Tuesday, January 31, 2023 at the University of Nairobi, Wangari Mathai Institute of Peace and Environmental Studies. 

The Regional Forum on the Future of Resilient Food Systems in Africa – AAAP Digital Solutions for a Changing Climate organised in collaboration with the African Development Bank and the Wangari Maathai Institute at the University of Nairobi will strengthen the knowledge and capacity of stakeholders from across Eastern Africa  to design and implement DCAS projects to improve food security and climate resilience for farmers and facilitate knowledge sharing on approaches to scale up the use of DCAS.

Digital climate-informed advisory services are tools and platforms that integrate climate information into agricultural decision-making. These services range from digital mobile apps, radio, and online platforms to digitally enabled printed bulletins based on climate models and extension services that utilize climate information platforms.

DCAS offers crucial opportunities to build the resilience of small-scale producers in the face of worsening climate change impacts, particularly when bundled with complementary services (such as financing, input supply, market access, insurance). From seasonal forecasts to pest advisories, effectively designed DCAS can provide producers with the resources to adapt to climate shocks and plan for new climate conditions.

Globally, more than 300 million small-scale agricultural producers have limited or no access to DCAS because service provision is still fragmented, unsustainable beyond project cycles, and not reaching the last mile.

Through the Climate-Smart Digital Technologies for Agriculture and Food Security Pillar of Africa Adaptation Acceleration Program, the Global Center on Adaptation and African Development Bank have the goal to scale up access to climate-smart digital technologies, and associated data-driven agricultural and financial services for at least 30 million farmers in Africa.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the forum, Professor Patrick Verkooijen, CEO of Global Center on Adaptation and and Distinguished Chair, Wangari Maathai Institute called for urgent financial support to put Africa on the path of food sovereignty which lifts up African farmers and delivers food and prosperity.

“Africa needs urgent support to scale up the implementation of adaptation solutions that are already yielding good results for irrigation, developing drought-resistant seeds, crops and livestock diversification. Through the African Adaptation Acceleration Programme, AAAP, we are rolling out a $350 million project to build resilience for food and nutrition security in the Horn of Africa towards mobilising new digital climate technology for market information, insurance products, financial services that can and must be tailored to smallholder farmers’ needs”, Professor Verkooijen said. He concluded that investing in resilient food systems is investing in 21st century jobs, stressing that Africa’s youth needs more and better jobs in the agribusiness of the future. 

Research from GCA finds that expanding the reach and quality of digital services will require governments and the private sector to invest approximately $7 billion over the next decade.

In her remarks, delivered by Dr Pascal Sanginga, Regional Sector Manager for Agriculture and Agro-Industries at the African Development Bank, Madam Nnenna Nwabufo, East Africa Business Development and Delivery Office at the African Business Development Bank, noted that the forum was timely coming on the heels of the recently concluded Dakar 2 Feed Africa-Food Sovereignty and Resilience summit in Dakar organised by the AfDB in Dakar.

“The Africa Adaptation Acceleration Program is already contributing to closing Africa’s adaptation gap by supporting African countries to make a transformational shift in their development pathways by putting climate adaptation and resilience at the center of their policies, programs, and institutions. There is no doubt that AAAP will be a strong component of the Country Food and Agricultural Delivery Compacts to accelerate the transformation of Africa’s food systems and build a more resilient Africa”, she said.

Professor Stephen Kiama  Gitahi, Vice Chancellor of the University of Nairobi who was represented by the Associate Vice Chancellor, Research, Innovation and Extension, Prof. Margaret Hutchinson reiterated the relevance of the Forum pointing out that  70% of population in Eastern Africa live in rural areas depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. He encouraged the trainers to simplify the modules in a manner that removes the fear for technology and accelerate adaptation for rural farmers. Citing the legacy of late Professor Wangari Maathai he stated: 

“We acknowledge that gaps exist on climate adaptation in the rural communities and those can be smartly bridged with the use of digital smart agriculture and climate innovations to create great conservation impact in our region.”

The Forum brought together stakeholders from ministries of agriculture, related government agencies, public research institutions, farmer organizations, universities and non-profit
organizations working on climate adaptation for food security in Eastern Africa. These include participants from Djibouti, Eritrea, South Sudan, Burundi, Rwanda, Mauritius, Tanzania, Seychelles, Sudan, Ethiopia, Rwanda and host Kenya to this capacity building workshop on Digital Climate Information and Advisory Services (DCAS) training to promote Climate Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture in Eastern Africa.