10 Interventions To Protect Africa’s Smallholder Farmers From Climate Change

Climate negotiators are currently gathered in Bonn to agree the rules and processes for implementing the Paris Agreement. This international accord aims to limit global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius and strengthen the ability of countries to cope with the impacts of climate change. It maps a new course for global climate efforts.

Nearly 200 countries have signed up, and each is expected to outline their commitments in documents known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). At the time of writing, the US administration shows worrying signs of backing away from its commitments, in spite of mounting pressure from the public, business and world leaders.


Climate smart villages like this one in Kenya are home to a mix of technologies tailored to boost farmers’ ability to adapt to climate change, manage risk and build resilience. Photo credit: Flickr

Meanwhile, many other countries, including China and India, are taking crucial steps to decrease their greenhouse gas emissions, including by scaling up renewable energy and investing in the low-carbon economy. Businesses are also taking progressive steps. However, developing the Paris Rulebook - the user manual for decision-makers to ensure implementation is effective and fair - is a challenging task and a political hot potato.  

Presently many country’s NDC’s are not ambitious enough to prevent the most serious effects of climate change. Governments need to enhance climate action and revise their planning well before 2020. Europe, North America and other high-income countries, responsible for the bulk of historical emissions, are primarily concerned with mitigating the impacts of climate change. Lower-income countries in Africa, Asia and South America, exposed to the worst vicissitudes of a changing climate, are anxious about how they can adapt, including to the loss of and damage to agriculture.

Climate change will disproportionately impact Africa, affecting crop yields and food quality; adverse weather will disrupt transportation, harvest and storage. Smallholder farmers are vulnerable to rising temperatures and too much or too little rainfall. Mean temperatures in Africa are predicted to rise faster than the global average, well exceeding 2 degrees and potentially contributing to losses of 2-7% of GDP by 2100. Hunger and child malnutrition is also predicted to increase by as much as 20% by 2050, putting the Sustainable Development Goals out of reach.

Droughts, such as the ones in Lake Chad and the Horn of Africa, could seriously undermine the gains made in reducing poverty and improving health and nutrition. Given the importance of agriculture in generating revenues and employment, the livelihoods of millions are at stake. Below are 10 interventions that national governments, donors and the private sector should implement to protect smallholder farmers from the impacts of climate change. 

1.     Put the threat posed by climate change to food and nutrition security on the top of the agenda at the UNFCCC.

2.     Invest in sustainable farming systems to adapt to climate change and improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers.

3.     Invest in better weather monitoring and modelling to improve responses.

4.     Increase investment in research to understand local responses to climate change.  

5.     Build resilience by getting better regional and national estimates of the impact of climate change.

6.     Invest in proven community-based adaptation projects.

7.     Help smallholder farmers to reduce and offset greenhouse gas emissions.

8.     Focus investments on interventions that sequester carbon in the soil and better land use management practices.

9.     Design climate finance mechanisms so African governments can better access funding that significantly benefits smallholder farmers.

10.  Implement fit for purpose adaptation and mitigation strategies that benefit smallholder farmers. 

By implementing these 10 interventions governments, donors and businesses can make an enormous difference to the vulnerability of smallholder farmers in the face of a changing climate.

The opinions represented in this blog do not necessarily reflect those of individual Malabo Montpellier Panel members and their organisations.