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Why journalists must be concerned about impact of climate change on agriculture

Humanity can still stop the worst consequences of climate change, says scientists in the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report.

AICCRA Spring School on Climate Change and Agriculture
Some participants at the AICCRA Spring School on Climate Change and Agriculture

But time, it argues, is running out.

“Mainstreaming effective and equitable climate action will not only reduce losses and damages for nature and people, it will also provide wider benefits,” said IPCC Chair, Hoesung Lee. “This Synthesis Report underscores the urgency of taking more ambitious action and shows that, if we act now, we can still secure a liveable sustainable future for all.”

And given the need for urgent action before that time runs out – transforming food, land, and water systems in a climate crisis is the focus of the 2030 Research and Innovation Strategy of the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), the world’s largest research partnership for agriculture and food security.

Under the Accelerating Impacts of CGIAR Climate Research for Africa (AICCRA) project, journalists and communicators have been identified as critical allies in telling the story of how agriculture can help deliver a more resilient, climate-smart future in Africa.

In a step towards enhancing the climate change narrative, the AICCRA Spring School on Climate Change and Agriculture in Africa was held in Cape Town, South Africa, in partnership with the International Water Management Institute (IWMI).

The workshop was to help make the case for prioritizing and investing in transformative innovations in agriculture, and the climate services that support them.

“We can make climate-smart agriculture one of the hottest talking points at global climate summits, shifting perceptions, encouraging commitments, holding leaders accountable,” said Rhys Bucknall-Williams, Global Communications and Knowledge Manager at AICCRA.

Why food and agriculture?

Around 250 million small-scale African farmers produce 70 percent of the continent’s food supply, on plots smaller than one hectare. They will need to produce enough nutritious food for a fast-growing continental population set to reach 2.5 billion by 2050.

Climate change, however, threatens the drive to protect the interest of smallholder farmers.

“It’s critical for Africa’s broader development that its agriculture sectors adapt to become more resilient and productive under climate change,” observed Rhys. “This is a strategic priority for African leaders – through the Malabo Declaration and the African Union’s new climate change strategy.”

AICCRA is a programme implemented in six African countries – Senegal, Mali, Ghana, Ethiopia, Kenya and Zambia – and works to deliver a climate-smart African future driven by science and innovation in agriculture.

Role of media and communication professionals

“Journalists are first humans and are not superhuman; all human livelihoods are dependent on the earth and its components, hence the need to take lead in campaigns on climate change and agricultural productivity,” observed Kenyan journalist, Agnes Oloo, who attended the AICCRA Spring School.

The media are among the world’s most influential institutions, and how they shape the climate change narrative remains vitally important.

Research, however, indicates top news media are failing to identify climate change as a contributor to some of the world’s biggest crises, including migration, food insecurity and conflict.

Awareness of how climate change threatens food security will help offer better support for policies and investments that can pre-empt future crises.

To accelerate climate action, it’s vital that African media leaders and influencers understand the impact of climate change on African agriculture, and how to amplify key messages by partners and stakeholder networks to scale climate-smart agriculture for a more resilient future for African smallholder farmers.

The media have the power to shape the global conversation on climate change. Such conversations are critical to help millions of smallholder farmers in Africa adapt to climate change in time.

The AICCRA Spring School explored the impact of climate change on African agriculture and food systems and how to transform African agriculture and food systems for a more sustainable and climate-resilient future.

Sabrina Trautman moderated sessions to unpack climate smart agriculture and climate change reporting by exploring the root causes of the phenomenon.

In an interview, she described journalists as change makers on the continent, emphasising the need for journalists to tell stories that connect to the bigger narrative.

“Journalists need to move from being reactive to being proactive by looking at the root causes and creating investigative stories to get policy action.

“At the moment a lot of African journalism is very reactive to the climate impact, but there is a lot more we can be writing about to be proactive in solutions and innovations, and change some of the language we are using in our journalism,” she said.

Sabrina also called for the sharing of knowledge and the amplification of cross-country dialogue as countries on the African continent share similar experiences in climate impact.

According to the IPCC, “the solution lies in climate resilient development. This involves integrating measures to adapt to climate change with actions to reduce or avoid greenhouse gas emissions in ways that provide wider benefits.

“Climate resilient development becomes progressively more challenging with every increment of warming. This is why the choices made in the next few years will play a critical role in deciding our future and that of generations to come.”

The media cannot sit aloof and the AICCRA Spring School on Climate Change and Agriculture has offered an insightful learning experience and the impetus for journalists to develop rich storytelling skills and built networks to amplify the climate and agriculture narrative.

By Kofi Adu Domfeh 

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