Southern Africa: Agricultural unions to observe climate change meeting (AFP)

| October 31, 2011

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Representatives of farmers unions in southern Africa have been granted “observer status” at the upcoming climate change talks in Durban, South Africa. The unions want the United Nations to simplify regulations for accessing climate change funds. They intend to represent farmers’ concerns at these high level talks.

The next session of the Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, known as COP 17, will be held in South Africa, from November 28 to December 9, 2011. COP 17 aims to assess progress and negotiate international agreements on dealing with climate change.

The Southern African Confederation of Agricultural Unions, or SACAU, is calling for the United Nations to simplify funding regulations for climate change projects. SACAU refers specifically to the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) fund. This fund represents an opportunity for developing countries.  It allows companies in industrialized countries to buy the rights to emit greenhouse gases in exchange for funding “clean” projects such as reforestation in developing countries.

According to a 2009 SACAU study, only six projects related to agriculture in South Africa have been funded through the CDM. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) confirmed that, of all projects funded by the Clean Development Mechanism, only four per cent are in Africa. Most are in China, India, and Brazil.

These low numbers raise the question: why do African projects struggle to access funds? Effatah Jele represents the Zambia National Farmers Union. She comments, “Small farmers do not have the knowledge to present projects.” Administrative and technical requirements put farmers off. But many already recognize the impacts of climate change, and are eager to access funds to address these impacts.

Christina Seeberg-Elverfeldt works on climate change issues with the FAO. She describes the process of applying for funding as “very complicated, very long, but possible.” She says that farmers need to group together and set up projects that involve at least 50,000 farmers.

As observers at COP 17, SACAU will be able to engage with policy makers at the highest level. SACAU’s website states that the organization is: “Committed to tak[ing] leadership in voicing out African farmers’ concerns about climate change and advocating for farmer focused responses in the African agricultural sector.”