Ireland is a founding member of a new Alliance for Climate smart Agriculture
Smallholder farmers produce the majority of Africa’s food, including nearly all the food they need themselves. Boosting their productivity in a sustainable way is a key part of solving the hunger crisis on that continent. Unfortunately, erratic rains, droughts, flooding and extreme storms are now part of the everyday reality for millions of people in Africa. Through our aid programme, Irish Aid, Ireland works with these communities to address the effects and impacts of climate change.
Yesterday, at the Climate Summit in New York, Ireland signalled our intention to join the Global Alliance for Climate Smart Agriculture. The Alliance is a global initiative that brings together governments, civil society and the private sector to share lessons, and build support for climate-smart agriculture. We will share our experience and expertise from Ireland, as well as what we are learning overseas through the Irish Aid programme.
Climate Smart Agriculture represents a ‘triple-win’; increase harvests, strengthen resilience against climate change and wherever possible reduce the carbon footprint. Irish Aid supports climate smart agriculture and building resilience amongst local communities in Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique and Ethiopia. Irish Aid has supported infrastructure that retains soil and water. We are now innovating in conservation agriculture, a type of agriculture that means bigger harvests year on year and a farming that is less vulnerable to drought. Different crops are grown the following year to stop diseases building up. In general, whatever is left after harvest is no longer burnt but is used to cover the bare soil, improving it. ‘Cover crops’ are encouraged that add nitrogen to the soil and fertilise it. And fragile soils are disturbed as little as possible when preparing the ground for sowing. Irish Aid is also scaling-up the use of ‘fertiliser trees’. The different techniques help the soil to build organic matter and keep moisture and soil nutrients.
Climate smart agriculture also offers opportunities to improve people’s diets. In Malawi, the Seed Industry Development Project has improved the quality of legume seeds being sown for nutritious crops like pigeon pea and groundnuts. Smallholder farmers have been trained to produce the improved seed and approximately 395,000 farmers are now using it. Farmers and their families are enjoying higher yields, better prices, and improved health and nutrition from food with more vitamins and protein.
Indeed, in collaboration with the Mary Robinson Foundation Climate Justice, last year Ireland hosted The Dublin Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Climate Justice where community voices were heard and experiences brought into Ireland’s international negotiations.