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This proposal climate proofs the economics of sustainable agriculture in Africa



Executive summary


In recent time, Climate change and variability have become a major challenge to many sectors including agriculture. Degenerating soil fertility, deforestation, loss of biodiversity due to eutrophication and acidification, soil salinization from inadequate irrigation practices, release of untreated toxic wastes, pollution of soil and air by agrochemicals and manure waste could worsen the already complex climate change issues. In order to engender sustainable agricultural practices, these issues have to be incorporated into the development of mitigation and adaptation strategies for the small-scale farmers that produce majority of the staple food in Africa. In other words, without mass education for skills development in mitigation and adaptation strategies and awareness creation coupled with environmentally friendly practices for the small-scale farmers, climate change is likely to cause more suffering than what the continent has ever witnessed. Knowledge institutions such as the university, polytechnics, colleges of education and research institutes etc, as establishments that nurture, train, educate and monitor students in the understanding of myriads of body of knowledge about the earth system and all other natural and human activities are critical for these processes. With particular reference to climate change education, these institutions also engage students in research activities as a way of learning science, understanding climate change, contributing to climate change studies and participating in several local and international workshops, seminars and conferences. This proposal focuses on how climate change education among the small-scale farmers can be used to develop and build capacities in the field of climate science and empower students and small-scale farmers in Africa. The study develops a triadic model of capacity building built around training, mentoring and networking and integrates it within the larger poverty alleviation program of NEPAD and other stakeholders in Africa considering the fact that African continent is highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, with the small-scale farmers experiencing more impacts. The small-scale farmers in the developing countries not only constitute the majority of the population but also produce more than 50% of the food in the local markets. There is the need to help these farmers overcoming high marketing cost in the face of stiff international competition. This proposal brings in a pragmatic approach to the regional agricultural programmes as it relates of the issues of climate change impacts, food security, poverty reduction, international engagements and millennium development goals in Africa.  



Maruf Sanni

National Centre for Technology Management, Nigeria

James O. Adejuwon

Department of Geography, Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria

Idowu Ologeh

National Centre for Technology Management, Nigeria

William O. Siyanbola

National Centre for Technology Management, Nigeria



Description of the actions proposed and their anticipated outcomes.

In addition, you will want to outline the mechanisms by which the world as a whole can transition to the green economy or to an alternative vision of the future you would propose instead.


The focus of this initiative is to enhance the scientific capacity of developing countries to assess climate change vulnerabilities and adaptations, and generate and communicate information useful for adaptation planning and action at the local level. The major components of this proposal are training, mentoring and networking with focus on small-scale agriculture. It has been observed over the years that small-scale farmers’ crops out yield large farms on calorie output per hectare and as a result of that they are more efficient in alleviating poverty in Africa where there is abundance of this system of farming. However, inaccessibility to technological agricultural innovations by this group of farmers as a result of unfavourable economic, socio-cultural and institutional conditions, have limited their efficiencies and if given the right inputs, feasible technology and relevant information and practical climate change adaptation strategies, they are capable of transforming traditional agriculture into a more enterprising one. The proposal situates the proposed approach for climate change education on a triadic model of capacity building (Figure 1). 




Figure 1: A triadic model of capacity building (Sanni et. al. 2010)


This component is comprised of the combination of formal and informal organisations, non-governmental organizations, information flow, financial incentives and infrastructures. It is within the educational  and research institutions that the training of future experts will be done. In order for the training to have the desired impact, each of these elements must be properly structured. Under this component, seminars, workshops and conferences should be organized to teach the students and the small-scale farmers the basic concepts of climate change. The institutions should invite international experts from international organizations such as IPCC, GEF, UNEP and other non-governmental organizations to provide training in the methods and tools for assessing vulnerability and adaptation and constructing scenarios of climate and associated socioeconomic conditions as they relate to farming activities. This training is best administered at the third year for the undergraduate students, after the completion of coursework for postgraduate students and all the year round for the farmers. The success of this training should be assessed by the level of understanding of students and the farmers in the basic concepts of climate change, the quality of potential projects that students are able to propose, including the scientific design of their proposed dissertations/projects and the level of interactions and impacts that the students have on the pilot farms. This training should also provide opportunities for students to learn from each other. Students should engage in active participation in the field, which could be achieved by introducing students to small-scale farmers. Students should be encouraged to engage farmers in discussions about issues related to climate change with the intention of building the adaptive capabilities and resilience of the local farmers. During these discussions, the local, conventional and emerging technologies in terms of adaptation and mitigation techniques should be documented, while experimental farms are set up where the documented techniques would be tested. It is important at this stage to also include other stakeholders (such as governments, agricultural input companies, credit societies, farmers' organisations, developmental organisations and other international partners) in this process. The stakeholders are very important because they provide both knowledge and hardware supports for the farmers. For instance, government agencies such as the agricultural extension workers will update farmers’ knowledge and keep them abreast of the latest information on farming systems, extended weather forecast, and introduction of hybrid crops etc. They also pass across farm inputs such as new seedlings. At the same time, agricultural input companies could provide farm inputs such as fertilizers and farm implements. They could also provide small grants for the farmer to acquire farms’ implements. International and regional institutions with special interest in climate change and agricultural development in Africa should be willing to train  both the students and the farmers on climate change adaptation strategies and sustainable agriculture. It is also very important that these institutions build their activities around local needs in view of the peculiarities of African agriculture and the level of vulnerabilities. Some of these institutions which could be of assistance include: 


Department for International Development (DfID) 
International Development Research Centre (IDRC) 
The Global Environment Facility (GEF) 
Assessments of Impacts and Adaptations to Climate Change (AIACC)
Netherlands Climate Change Studies Assistance Program (NCCSAP) 
The intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC)
Climate Systems Analysis Group (CSAG)
Africa Centre for Meteorological Applications for Development (ACMAD)
Centre Regional de Formation et d'Application en Agrométéorologie et Hydrologie Opérationnelle (AGRHYMET)
The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT)
Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR)
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) 
Global Change SysTem for Analysis, Research and Training (START)


Another approach in strengthening capacity building in climate change studies is mentoring. This component involves the experts in climate change studies that could identify problems and provide solutions. The point of focus for this experts is to stimulate interest of students and farmers in the study of climate change. This can be achieved by inviting or linking students with reputable scientists or policy makers whose core responsibilities are in the area of climate change. These mentors could also help the students plan and initiate their dissertations/theses or solve local problems identified by the farmers or students on the farms. They should also help the farmers on the field on issues that have to do with productivities  and any other business on the farms. The universities, research institutes, international donors, devlelopmental agencies and non-governmental organisations, should also make available a database of notable scientists in the field of climate change to the students and farmers, which they can choose from. We also propose here that both the students and the farmers have access to communication device that will allow them link up with the outside world. The mentors should guide students in the selection and application of data, sample size, methodology, models and scenarios for climate change studies, as well as attending to any other problems that may arise while the students are working on their projects. Mentors should also teach the students about publishing, especially in peer reviewed journals. Mentors should be able to inform students of both local and international conferences and workshops which can enhance students’ capacities. In the same light, farmers should be assigned extension service agent who will see to the effectiveness and efficiency of the farm activities.


Capacity development is time dependent. Some societies may possess skills to solve a particular problem, while those skills may be inadequate to overcome emerging and future challenges. As a result of this, there is the need to create a conducive policy environment where students and farmers may interact with the experts . This environment provides the condition to enable economic, political, socio-cultural, general infrastructure, inter-institutional/organizational configuration, adequate policies, laws and administrative measures (Mugabe et al., 2000). In order for students and farmers to have interactions with the experts and other farmers from different locations with similar or diverse experiences, it is important to organize regional workshops in various locations such as Africa, Asia/Pacific and Latin America/Caribbean, United Kingdom and USA. These regional workshops could also bring together the project mentors, researchers, small-scale farmers and stakeholders from developing and developed countries to discuss current issues, techniques and methodology on climate change studies. Small-scale farmers and students may present experiences/papers from their farms/research activities, while mentors advise students and farmers to collaborate across study teams to solve common problems and plan for joint publications with the students. For sustainability of networking, there should be dedicated online discussion groups where further interaction can take place. Farmers could also link up with the experts or mentors via communication gadgets provided. The dedicated online discussion group would bring together and strengthen regional networks of scientists and students who can collaborate and develop effective teams in investigations of climate change impacts. At the same time, there should always be a focal point  who links up with the farmers even after the students had completed their projects for the purpose of follow up. The farmers should also  be allowed to make presentaionts about their personal experiences in international fora. 


Why: Rationale for the proposal

Explanation for why these actions and outcomes are desirable.

The survival of African economy depends on sustainable agriculture. In other words, the key to pulling African population out of poverty rests with agricultural development. This is coming from the fact that more than 70% of its inhabitants and roughly 80% of the poor people live in rural areas and they all depend mainly on agriculture for livelihood. Moreover, 20 % of the continent’s GDP (ECA, 2004), 60% of the labour force and 20% of the total merchandise exports are attributed to agriculture (CAADP, 2003). More importantly, in Africa, about 90% of the rural population who are predominantly small-scale farmers have agriculture as the main source of income (ECA, 2005). Unfortunately however, about 70% of the African population living on less than 1$ a day are located in rural areas (World Bank, 2002) and at the same time, poor performance of agricultural sector over the years has not been of help to this category of people. Also, the challenges posed by vagaries of climate vis-à-vis climate change impacts with antecedent low adaptive capacity in Africa are likely to worsen the situations of small-scale farmers in the next few years. For instance, according to Eswaran et al, (2004) Climate change-induced land degradation is expected through:

changes in the length of days and/or seasons;

recurrence of droughts, floods, and other extreme climatic events;

changes in temperature and precipitation which in turn reduces vegetation cover, water resource availability, and soil quality; and

changes in land-use practices, such as conversion of lands, pollution, and depletion of soil nutrients. 


Moreover, the extension agents and education services are very limited both in number and scope. Most of their approaches depend on focusing on a small group of farmers with the hope that these farmers will share the knowledge with others through a trickledown effect. However, experiences have shown that these approaches have made little significant impacts on the farmers’ productivity. At present, farmers greatly outnumber available extension agents, with the present ratio standing at around 1:100,000 depending on the country. We believe it is the time to get students involved in these activities whereby individual small-scale farmers will have access to update information on efficient farming practises and adaptation strategies.  

This proposal will not only help small-scale farmers harness their market potentials, it will also reduce poor harvests as a result of the impact of climate change, high price of energy crops, high dependence on imported agricultural products etc. Considering the fact that Africa spends about $10 billion annually to import food, then it is not an overstatement by saying that any policy targeted at African development without considering small-scale farming and climate change education does so at a very great risk. 

Focus of this proposal

The focus of this proposal is to examine how small-scale farming could be used to alleviate poverty in Africa with the advent of climate change impacts.  This could be achieved by bringing farmers and students together on the field with the assistance of climate change experts. 

It is possible to demonstrate how this proposal can be integrated into national, multinational projects within any learing institutions in the developing countries. However, this proposal is better conceptualised within national boundary and intergrated across developing countries. Assessment of the present situation in the universities or any other learning institutions  in most developing countries reveals that majority of these higher institutions do not have climate change as an undergraduate programme. This should be the starting point for these countries. We propose that the strategies in this project should be used to promote and build capacities in the area of climate change which could be duplicated for projects in similar areas. Considering the fact that many  developing countries are vulnerable to the impacts of climate change albeit with different intensities, it is recommended that these countries adopt this triadic model so as to increase capacity, as well as reduce their levels of vulnerabilities to climate change impacts. 

How: Feasibility of proposal

Explanation of how the proposed actions will be achieved. 

This proposal intends to fill the gap in the existing regional agricultural programmes  in Africa.

There are many big agricultural programmes which are targeted towards poverty alleviation  in Africa . Unfortunately, many of them do not  comprehensively address how farmers would cope with climate change impacts in both short and long term. Most especially, in terms of 'on the spot' climate change adaptation strategies and information dissemination. Such programmes include the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), an initiative of the New Partnership for African Development and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and other stakeholders and the concepts of agricultural growth corridors. 

The CAADP initiative is built around 3 pillars for investment in African agriculture. The pillars include:

land and water management;

infrastructure and trade-related capacities for improved market access;

support to productivity-increasing activity among small farmers in the context of food security programmes

Research and development, allied with technology dissemination for widespread and effective adoption is put at the centre of the three pillars to strengthen long-term capacity to maintain competitiveness for high productivity in the sector. 

Given the peculiarities within national boundaries, we propose that CAAPD be broken down into national programmes with main CAADP documents used as a template or guide for each country. We also propose that milestones be set for each of the pillars in terms of what targets or goals to be achieved and within what time frame. 

Concept of agricultural growth corridors

The concept of agricultural growth corridors have recently been used to launch some high-profile initiatives to increase agricultural production in Africa. The idea can also be put in the context of using public-private partnerships (PPP) model for promoting agriculture productivity in Africa. Either way, the end game is to promote sustainable food production and contribute to economic development in the region. 

This innovative concept lays emphasis on the need to strengthen and build infrastructure, such as seaports, roads, railways, telecommunications, irrigation systems and storage facilities. In the same light, of interest are improved financing facilities and credit schemes, especially for small-scale farmers and agro-dealers, in the form of ‘social venture capital’, ‘patient capital’ or catalytic fund. At present, there are two of such initiatives in Africa:


The Beira Agricultural Growth Corridor (BAGC)

The Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania (SAGCOT)



Figure 2: Maps of the BAGC and SAGCOT (Sean de Cleene, 2010)


The BAGC was created with the purpose of developing the  agricultural and economic potential of an area cutting across central Mozambique, towards Malawi and Zimbabwe with the access towards the Indian Ocean. The idea was conceptualized in 2008 and launched in 2009. A model of how the programmed would run was presented at the World Economic Forum annual meeting in January 2010.


In the case of SAGCOT, the idea was launched in 2010 under the stewardship of the Tanzanian Agriculture Partnership (TAP). The programme was established to harness the agricultural potential of the region and at the same time improve the Tanzanian economy by linking investments from private and public sector so as to promote regional integration and economic development of neighbouring countries. A paper illustrating the programme was presented at the World Economic Forum Africa meeting in May 2010.


We however, proposed that these corridors are extended to serve both the eastern and southern Africa. At same time, we propose the creation of another agriculture corridor in west and north Africa with the main corridor for west Africa in Nigeria and that of the north Africa in Egypt. The reason for choosing these countries is based on the potential arable land, technical competency and access to the seaports (see figure 2). We also propose that NEPAD is allowed to coordinate these agriculture corridors. The idea behind creating more corridors in the region is to create clusters/hubs where small-scale farmers could sell their products with less trade restrictions. From this line of arqument, the African Regional Organisation for Standardization should play a major role alongside NEPAD in ensuring exchange of quality goods and services in the region.


 Figure 3: Map of arable lands in Africa (WorldStat, 2011)

Since the cost of installing critical infrastructures is usually high for the small-scale farmers, it makes economic sense therefore to find a way of linking or integrating large-scale commercial farms with small-scale farmers. This could be made possible via two approaches or models:

An outgrower model

A serviced farm blocks model

Within the an outgrower model, a commercial farm hub is constructed to provide services such as extending irrigation, seedlings, fertilizers, storehouse facilities, electricity, modern transport system to outgrowers (i.e the small-scale farmers ) from the large-scale farmers  in the region.

Meanwhile, in the case of a serviced farm blocks model, services needed (along the agricultural productivity value chain) by the both the large and small-scale farmers are provided by a leasing company who sublets farm blocks of different sizes to both farmers (BAGC Report, 2010).

The major difference between the two models is that the ‘outgrower model’ (see figure 4) involves linking up small-scale farmers working on their own land with a larger commercial farm, while in the ‘serviced farm blocks model’ a company provides both the land and the infrastructure. Since the focus of this proposal is to proffer solutions for the small-scale farmers, we propose the adoption of the outgrower model in all the agriculture hubs/clusters suggested for the continent. This approach could also help stem the problems of land grabbing in Africa. In this case, each small-farmers could kick-start their farming activities by using credit facilities such as social venture capital, catalytic fund, patient capital or any other sources of funding which the PPP  may have arranged. These credit facilities could be paid back by the farmers through profits generated from their products and some 'special taxations'.  

Figure 4: Outgrower Model (SAGCOT Investment Blueprint, 2011)

After all these initiatives are operational, the economics of the proposed agriculture cluster can now be climate proofed by the triadic model of capacity building in the field of climate change among the small-scale farmers.  This model should also be incorporated in the  Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMA) programmes of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in all the countries in Africa. 


Vision of the future under this proposal


The imapct of this proposal is better visualised in figure 5. It should be noted that the impacts shown in figure 5 is mainly presenting the case for Tanzanian alone.  There is no doubt that the impacts will be much more if this could be duplicated in Africa across all the 54 countries through the proposed agriculture clusters/hubs. 

Figure 5: Vision of the Impacts of SAGCOT (SAGCOT Investment Blueprint, 2011)
Using the case of Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania (SAGCOT) for example, it has been estimated that:
$3.4 billion of public and private sector investment would triple agricultural output over a 20-year period,
achieving food security for the region, 
generating farm revenue of $1.2 billion
creating 420,000 on-farm employment opportunties 

creating 120,000 jobs in agricultural processing

creating 160,000 employment in the wider agricultural value chain

1.9 million addtional beneficiary from employment in a household 

lifting two million households out of poverty
Tens of thousands of subsistence farmers would have opportunities to become profitable, commercial farmers in their own right, with access to modern inputs, irrigation and international markets.
Using Beira Agricultural Growth Corridor (BAGC) as an example:

By 2030, it has been estimated that:

190,000 hectares of profitable irrigated agriculture, producing world class yields, sold in domestic, regional and international markets

350,000 jobs in farming and the associated value chain

Up to 200,000 smallholder farmer families with improved access to finance, inputs and markets, benefiting from improved yields and higher incomes

Net incomes predicted to more than triple, lifting 1 million people out of extreme poverty

 At least 150 villages near commercial farms benefit from provision of power and water supply

Annual value of farming revenues of $1 billion

For the continent in general, by the year 2050, there would be

Attainment of food security;

A 20 percent annual growth rate in agricultural productivity;

A sustainable, dynamic regional and sub-regional agricultural markets;

Full integratation of small-farmers into a market economy; 

A 40%  of the rural poor out of poverty; and

A more equitable distribution of wealth.

Impact of climate change education

Although, agriculture contributes to climate change, but it also provides a sink and has the potential to lessen climate change. Through capacity building and climate change education, small-scale farmers could realise the impact of simple changes in agricultural technologies and management practices which could reduce emissions by retaining carbon in the soil. Some of these practices include (Seeberg‐Elverfeldt, 2010):


Crop rotations, including plants that have deep root systems, increase the amount of carbon stored in the soil.

Cultivation systems that leave residues and reduce tillage, especially deep tillage, encourage the build-up of soil carbon.

Changing land use from annual crops to perennial crops, pasture, and agro-forestry increases both above- and below-ground carbon stocks.

Changes in crop genetics and the management of irrigation, fertilizer use, and soils can reduce both nitrous oxide and methane emissions.

Changes in livestock species and improved feeding practices can also cut methane emissions.


This triadic model of capacity could also be demonstrated within the context of the sustainable global circular economy (James Greyson). For instance sucessful implementaiton of the model of capacity building will help achieve:


·          Collaborative learning-together rather than Top-down teaching

·         Circular economy regenerating soils and ecosystems rather than linear economy (high fertiliser and GMO   input)

·         Carbon negative (via biomass carbon-removal, composting and biochar) rather than lower-carbon goal

·         Land reform policies that allows regaining access to land rather than Loss of land tenure and access

·         Fitting local/regional economies to farmers rather than fitting farmers into national economy  

The interactions among the students, mentors, experts and the farmers will spin many benefits:

1.       Every organisation – small scale or large scale needs information to improve. An excellent source of such information is from R&D departments mostly situated within the walls of the knowledge institutions. The small scale farmers need applicable information from the research activities carried out by climate change experts and students to help them plan and adapt to climate change

2.       It has been established that climate change and variation affect the quality and quantity of crops from small scale farms; adequate information on adaptation strategies like crop substitution, multi-cropping, etc. will help alleviate the problem.

3.       A farmer that makes good sales from his farm based on good information on how to adapt to climate variation will be motivated to pay tax. This has a spill over effect on the amount of income the government will make from small scale farming. Those that are helped through agricultural extension services and shown how to farm successfully with changing climates  would respond well to government initiatives including tax payment

4.      Government could earn more foreign currency by spending less on the importation of staple crops which is worth more than 10 billion dollar in the region.

6.       The farmers will also learn some adaptation strategies such as changing of planting dates and getting some meteorological services on their mobile phones from students, extension agents and other government agencies. 

Under this programme, farmers will not just learn how to be paid for their crops/produce but also get paid for biodiversity services that their produce and farmlands provide (e.g. soil carbon sequestration)

7.      With the success of the ‘outgrower model’, we see the possibility of some students picking up farming as their occupation or hubby in the future. This will drastically reduce the rate of unemployment on the continent. 

This proposal will bring new policies and practices that  will change patterns of income distribution over the next 50 years. It will  also lead to different patterns of food consumption and increase demand for locally produced agricultural products by the small-scale farmers. It will also empower women (women constitute a considerable share of small-scale farmers in many countries on the continent) and increase their income generating activities

Small scale farmers will be made entrepreneurs who will capture and add value to on-farm, post harvest and off-farm enterprises there by reducing poverty and help achieve one of the components of millennium development goals in Africa since this category of people constitutes majority of the households in the region.