24 Hours of Reality: The Cost of Carbon

From the 23rd – 24th of October, 2013, experts and celebrities from around the world gathered to take part in 24 hours of climate discussion

24 Hours of Reality” is a high-profile, annual event organized by The Climate Reality Project, founded by Al Gore (of “An Inconvenient Truth” fame). This year, the Project focused on the Cost of Carbon and how people around the world are paying the cost of carbon pollution. The show focused on North America, South America and the Caribbean, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia (scroll down here to see all segments).

Henry Neufeldt, head of the World Agroforestry Centre’s (ICRAF) climate change unit was invited to take part in the discussion on how climate change impacts food security in Africa (watch it online here). During this segment, Neufeldt was one of seven experts participating in the discussion and addressed the issue of climate change, within the context of agriculture. Neufeldt explained ICRAF’s approach to climate change adaptation and mitigation, which includes the use of trees to “increase the farmer’s capacity to adapt to climate shocks”.

Dryland in Northern Africa. Photo credit: ICRAF

Dryland in Northern Africa. Photo credit: ICRAF

Climate shocks, in this context, are extreme weather events, such as floods and drought that are increased in frequency and intensity due to climate change. Planting trees adjacent to traditional crops on farmland, a technique known as agroforestry, leads to a number of benefits, including the diversificationof livelihoods. Tree products, such as fruits and timber, offer alternative sources of income or trade if crops are devastated by floods or drought, and this helps reduce the negative impact of these climate shocks on a farmer’s livelihood.

The conversation among Neufeldt and other participants also addressed additional factors linked to food insecurity in Africa. Despite the urgent need for local African communities as a whole to adapt to and mitigate for climate change, the access to the solution is, as always, inherently complex. Incorporating sustainable management strategies and “green thinking” is very often a consideration to address only after basic needs such as food and shelter are met.

In addition to those basic needs, Neufeldt pointed out the issue of land tenure security, which is secure access to land, as one of the many reasons why farmers in Kenya do not adopt sustainable land management practices. The capacity to remain on their land and farms its resources is vital to the farmer’s livelihoods. If that access is not secure, planning for the long-term is not a priority if short-term access is at risk.

A woman walks past her farmhouse. Photo credit: ICRAF

A woman walks past her farmhouse. Photo credit: ICRAF

Finally, Neufeldt explained that agroforestry is not a concept restricted to Africa. However, to expand globally, considering the right trees and the right approaches to implementing agroforestry and other climate-smart practices is only part of the solution to ensuring long-term, sustainable benefits. Innovation is key to developing management strategies and agricultural practices that contribute to climate change adaptation and mitigation.

Developing countries in Africa contribute the least to carbon pollution yet the continent is predicted to suffer some of the worst effects of climate change. Adaptation and mitigation at the local levels are small steps towards incorporating these concepts into national and international policy for managing climate change impacts.

A Kenyan farmer inspects his maize crop. Photo credit: ICRAF

A Kenyan farmer inspects his maize crop. Photo credit: ICRAF

 

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