Small-scale farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia reeling from the effects of climate change received a philanthropy boost of US$1.4 billion (S$2 billion) on Monday to help them adapt to a world more influenced by climate change.

According to an announcement made at the COP27 climate summit in Egypt’s Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation grant, which will be distributed over four years, is earmarked for scaling up regional innovations that build resilience against drought, heat waves, and extreme flooding exacerbated by a warming world.

This year’s extreme weather has damaged crops and cut output on four continents.

Meanwhile, organizations representing 350 million family farmers issued an open letter to world leaders on Monday, warning that global food security is jeopardized unless governments increase funding for small-scale production and call for a shift away from industrial agriculture and toward more diverse, low-input methods.

The statement from 70 organizations representing farmers, fishers, and forest producers stated that “the spike in hunger over the previous year has shown the vulnerability of a global food system” that is unprepared for climatic shocks.

“Creating a food system capable of feeding the globe on a heated planet must be a top focus for COP27.”

Nearly a hundred world leaders will convene in Egypt for a two-week UN meeting to accelerate the greening of the global economy and enhance financial flows to developing countries where climate consequences are already eroding GDP.

Agriculture is the backbone of many African economies, employing more than half of the labor force on average and contributing for one-third of overall African GDP.

At least two billion people globally rely on smallholder farms for food and income, but just 2% of global climate funding is presently helping them adapt to climate change, which is expected to exacerbate food and economic crises in the coming decades.

“The repercussions of climate change have already been terrible,” said Gates Foundation CEO Mark Suzman. “Every time the world delays action, more people suffer, and solutions become more complex and costly.”

“Leaders must listen to African farmers’ and governments’ voices in order to comprehend their objectives and respond with haste.”

The money will be channelled to so-called climate-smart agriculture projects, including new digital technologies, innovations in livestock farming, and – working with the UN’s International Fund for Agriculture Development – support for women smallholder farmers, Mr Suzman said.

A “weather intelligence platform” developed with the Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organisation, for example, will allow farmers to better anticipate climate threats, with potentially crop-saving updates delivered via cellphone text messages.

“More funding is necessary to ensure agricultural and technological innovations are widely available to vulnerable communities,” Mr Bill Gates, who is not attending the summit, said in a statement.

Analysts welcomed the new funding stream, but cautioned that much broader support was needed.

“The Gates Foundation initiative is important and timely, with COP27 being dubbed the ‘Africa COP’,” Ms Elizabeth Robinson, director of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, told AFP.

“But the scale of the problem is such that governments, private sector and international organisations all need to increase their commitments to food security.”

Overall, there is an annual US$41 billion adaptation “finance gap” in Africa, according to the Global Center on Adaptation, based in Rotterdam.

Ms Claire McConnel, a food and agriculture expert at climate policy think tank E3G, said philanthropic funding and public finance can play an “important role” in leveraging private sector investments for adaptation.

“Partnerships with African farmers’ organisations and research institutes based on the continent will be key to ensuring investments meet farmers’ needs and money is spent effectively and efficiently,” she said, commenting on the announcement. AFP


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