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Climate Change Takes Centre Stage At Southern African Annual Dialogue 

By Hanson Tamfu*

[As the world comes closer to the United Nations framework Convention on climate change in Copenhagen next December, the 2009 regional dialogue holding in Maputo- Mozambique is reaffirming the developing world’s  common front as the only safety-valve for their stand to be accepted.]

"A post- Kyoto deal without agriculture is no deal for Africa", so goes the battle cry toned by the Secretary General of the Common Markets for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), one of the  eight regional economic communities of the African Union (AU), Hon. Sindiso Ngwenya.

The call is contained in a press statement issued here in Maputo on behalf of 26 African governments in Central, Eastern and Southern Africa and in his opening remarks at the dialogue. Ngwenya who is also chair of the Food, Agriculture Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) is calling on the global leadership to act on poverty reduction, sustainable agriculture, forest management and climate change to bring Africa safely into the terrestrial carbon debate.

The African led-Agriculture, Forestry, Sustainable Land Use (AFOLU), initiative also aims to generate African resources and mobilise funds from global markets and donors to promote sustainable agriculture in Africa.  Agricultural practices produce 20 percent of the 3.8 percent of greenhouse gas (GHG), emissions. The funds eventually procured from western governments will be used in reducing deforestation, encourage forest conservation and enhance terrestrial (soil, peat, and trees), carbon stocks through sustainable management.

In effect, African governments have agreed on common position which they term Africa Climate Solution, but there is still the necessity to put the case of agriculture and forestry together. "The emphasis on forestry and Agriculture is motivated by the fact that in Africa, we view forests as a continuum, and any divide between forestry and agriculture do not work in our favour.

The Africa Climate Solution is therefore pro-REDD (efforts to reduce the 20 percent gas emissions from deforestation and degradation) and pro- Agriculture," emphasised Dr. Lindiwe Majele Sibanda, CEO and Head of Diplomatic Mission at the Pretoria- based (FANRPAN). Sibanda however expresses fears about threats to the African common position coming from within and without. Internal obstacles include weak negotiating capacity, inconsistencies, inability of Africans to speak cohesively and the poor quality of proposals usually presented on such occasions.

She said the case for agriculture which is a new element in the climate change debate must be made very strongly and tactically to be heard, understood and adopted. "The external threat comes from pressure which is reportedly being put on Africa to pull out of the G77 and China group," Lindiwe said, citing sources from Bonn. "As a result, least developing countries (LDCs), and the Africa Solution stand alone. We consider this as a challenge. It is in our political interest to stay as one cohesive group in the negotiations," she stressed.

Wither the farmers

The debate about agriculture and its role in climate change is taking place without the farmer’s concern where as he is the key player. "The rural farmer knows about climate change even though he may not explain it scientifically. All we need is to explain it the way he can understand by carefully linking our scientific knowledge with what the farmer already knows" says the Director of Policy and Analysis at FANRPAN, Wole Olaleye.

Media practitioners and proprietors also came under bashing for saying little and devoting minimal space and time to issues of climate change. According to Frank Kayula of PANOS, Zambia, this negligence results from the fact that climate change stories do not have financial   incentives. He therefore urged stakeholders to include the media in their programmes.

The 2009 regional dialogue has brought together over 200 hundred delegates from all over the world to share experiences and ideas on research results and development challenges. FANRPAN, which is the chief organiser, became functional in 1999 with the endorsement of Southern African leaders to formulate agricultural policies that can increase food production and fight poverty.

Maputo, Mozambique, E-mail: tamhanson2000@yahoo.com

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