Overcoming hurdles: agroforestry as a means to reaching national climate targets in Africa
A side event at the on-going UN climate talks discussed challenges that African countries face in implementing actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and suggested viable low-carbon pathways to overcome these hurdles.
Nearly 150 countries worldwide have outlined actions they plan to undertake to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. These pledges, known as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), will determine the success of the new global climate deal that is expected at the close the Paris COP21.
“Although the objectives of climate commitments in Africa are definitive, the methods to achieve the mitigation targets in relation to land use are unclear,” remarked Cheikh Mbow, a senior scientist at the World Agroforestry Centre. “Both technical and practical challenges obscure the pathway to achieving intended goals by 2030.”
Africa is the only region where greenhouse gas emission from agriculture and forestry is greater than from other sectors such as energy or transport. For this reason, these two sectors are included in both climate change adaptation and mitigation targets. However, there are variances on the number of countries that have included agriculture and forestry, as well as adaptation and mitigation targets in their actions.
At a side event hosted by the World Agroforestry Centre at the Africa Pavilion during the on-going UN climate talks, panelists suggested a number of strategies to lead Africa towards low-carbon pathways.
Carbon farming, simply known as a set of agricultural practices that sequester carbon, offers a viable solution to the implementation of climate actions in Africa. Conservation agriculture and agroforestry are types of carbon farming that are easy to practice, and offer co-benefits such as soil fertility, nutrition, energy and shade.
The Biocarbon and Rural Development (BIODEV) project implemented in West Africa is an example of high-value carbon development through improved agroforestry and forestry management and tree planting. The project contributes to climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts, as well as improved livelihoods of participating communities through various capacity development initiatives and multiple benefits accrued from diverse tree species grown on farms.
Mechanisms such as the Climate Technology Centre Network (CTCN) promote the transfer of technologies for low carbon and climate resilient development at the request of countries. The CTCN offers fast and flexible delivery of support that initiates or triggers larger scale actions geared towards the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Over 10 countries in Africa have submitted requests to the CTCN for technical support in various sectors.
Agroforestry carries great carbon sequestration potential within the context of climate actions in Africa. However, for it to be effective, there is need to harmonize time-series data and fill data gaps, improve data access, agree on indicators and set up more long-term field surveys. Knowledge networks and the consideration of local perceptions and local dynamics are also vital to the successful implementation of climate actions.
“There is a huge potential to increase tree cover on farmlands and that will make a difference in the implementation of climate actions,” concluded Mbow.
Given the variety of options for land-based mitigation strategies, many opportunities exist but their feasibility and implementation should be context specific. African countries should, early in the process, identify the barriers and trade-offs with other development needs.
Alexandre Meybeck: Harnessing mitigation adaptation co-benefits in INDCs
Eric Toensmeier: Carbon farming in the tropics and INDCs
Photos: ICRAF participation at COP 21