Support to climate-resilient agriculture in Africa

A greater proportion of people work in agriculture in Africa than anywhere else on Earth. Yet, the continent’s farms are also some of the most vulnerable to climate change. Without significant and urgent changes to food production, a dangerous mix of higher temperatures, longer droughts and more erratic rainfall will see crop yields tumble – burdening millions more Africans with hunger, malnutrition and precarious livelihoods.

Efforts to close the investment gap in Zambia

The International Water Management Institute (IWMI) has been at the forefront of efforts to improve Africa’s climate resilience. In Zambia, IWMI is working with the Accelerating Impacts of CGIAR Climate Research for Africa (AICCRA) project to increase private sector investment in climate-smart agriculture.

Private funds will be essential to meeting the additional USD 226 billion needed annually to create sustainable food systems across the continent. However, a lack of data and high perceived risks have prevented investors from supporting African agribusinesses. These agribusinesses, in turn, have struggled to access the investor networks they need to expand their operations.

In February 2022, the AICCRA project team launched the Accelerator Program in Zambia to identify win-win solutions for investors and agribusinesses. It supports some of the country’s most promising small and medium-sized enterprises with tailored technical assistance to improve their investment prospects. At the same time, the program provides investors with the knowledge they need to select investments that will generate positive, systemic change in the agriculture sector. IWMI’s role is to provide science-based technical assistance to help scale innovative climate-smart agriculture and climate information services.

Not only is the Accelerator Program proving to be good for businesses and investors, it is also making it easier for Zambia’s 1.5 million smallholder farmers to access science-based climate-smart innovations. After just one year, the program has already helped 5,500 rural community members, including people from vulnerable groups, access off-grid solar irrigation technologies, supported 45,154 fisher folk improve integrated agriculture-aquaculture practices, enabled 5,200 farmers to use climate-smart seed varieties, and spread awareness of gender empowerment and social inclusion among 59,392 people, among other achievements. The Accelerator Program has improved the livelihoods of over 118,000 farmers, including more than 42,000 women. It has also secured USD 500,000 from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to invest in food security solutions.

Climate-smart policies in Ghana

IWMI is supporting regional decision-makers in Ghana to develop climate-smart policies and programs that can respond to the rapid societal shifts being brought about by climate change.

The Resilience Against Climate Change – Social Transformation Research and Policy Advocacy (REACH-STR) project was established in 2019 to bring thinking on social transformation into Ghana’s climate policy. Funded by the European Union and implemented by IWMI, this six-year project has trained development officers to create policies, programs and projects that work with ongoing social changes in Ghana to increase the country’s climate resilience.

As part of this work, IWMI has held annual learning events for district-level development planners. The latest event, held in October 2022, explored how social transformation can be incorporated into project planning, implementation and monitoring processes. Thirteen women and 24 men from the Upper West Region of Ghana, the most climate-vulnerable region in the country, participated in the event. To date, annual events organized by the REACH-STR project have trained 130 people, including 40 women.

The project also made it possible for scholarships to be awarded to Ghana’s next generation of decision-makers. So far, 4 PhD students and 15 MPhil students, including 8 women, have been given the opportunity to study subjects related to social transformation, under themes of climate resilience, migration and gender.

Route to resilient agriculture

IWMI’s contributions to the AICCRA Accelerator Program and the REACH-STR project are supporting both the public and private sectors to rise to the challenge of climate-proofing African agriculture. By working together, governments, businesses, investors and organizations such as IWMI can provide the knowledge, funds and supporting policies needed to transform farming across the continent into a productive, prosperous and resilient component of global food systems.

We gratefully acknowledge the World Bank and the European Union for their contributions to AICCRA and REACH-STR, respectively.