The Solution for the Future: the Africa CSA Alliance Reflections from the UN Climate Week in New York

By Chris Armitage, Steering Committee member, World Vision Australia

The UN Climate week in New York, from 22nd September to 26th September 2014, provided the perfect platform for showcasing the Africa CSA Alliance and the significant milestones reached in its development – and, as it turned out, for gauging the interest and endorsement of global stakeholders.

On Monday 22nd September, the Africa CSA Alliance held an extremely successful event in Manhattan East. It was well attended, with the conference hall filled to capacity, and attendees were clearly engaged and enthusiastic to participate in discussion. Notable participants included the Minister of Agriculture from Zambia and the Minister for 3N (Food Security & Agriculture) from Niger, the Director General of NORAD, senior representatives from the World Bank and IFAD, and representatives from African civil society and the private sector.

The event started with keynote addresses from Dr Ibrahim Mayaki (CEO of NEPAD), Her Excellency Rhoda Tumussime (Commissioner of the Africa Union) and John Kufuor (Ex-President of Ghana and UNSG Special Envoy on Climate Change). These were followed by two plenary panels, moderated by NEPAD’s Esterine Fatabong and Martin Bwalya, which discussed:

• the unique partnership embodied in the Africa CSA Alliance, and the alignment of iNGOs, African governments and grass-roots civil society to effectively deliver national, regional and continental development agenda;

• an African perspective and definition of Climate-Smart Agriculture; and

• the challenges and practical modalities for scaling-up the adoption and practice of CSA to reach the Alliance’s ambitious targets of 6 million smallholder farm households by 2021.

Inspiring addresses were given by panellists including the CEOs of World Vision Australia, Concern Worldwide, FANRPAN and SACAU, the Director General of CARE International, the Nigerian Minister for 3N, and Director of IFAD.

The event was extremely interactive, drawing out rich dialogue between panellists and many of those attending. Towards the end of the event, Marc Sadler from the World Bank summarised the initiative in his address from the floor with these words:

“Here we are today with the solutions for our planet…and so this Alliance, the African Alliance, is the global example today of collective action on the ground, coming from the grass-roots. It is these types of initiatives that will deliver the solutions of the future.”


blog_TimDr Ibrahim Mayaki and Tim Costello

The following morning, Tuesday 23rd, I accompanied Tim Costello to the UN Secretary General’s Climate Summit for the Policy Dialogues session on agriculture, which had a marked emphasis on Climate-Smart Agriculture. The session was moderated jointly by John Kufuor and Mary Robinson (both UN Special Envoys on Climate Change), and included addresses from developed and developing country Ministers of Agriculture, multilateral donors, iNGOs (notably Tim Costello and Carolyn Woo, CEO’s of WVA and CRS), and leaders of industry. Many of the speakers talked enthusiastically about the Africa CSA Alliance, and in her closing summary, Mary Robinson began by saying:

“From what we’ve heard today, there’s clearly global support for the Africa CSA Alliance. They’ve got the balance right.”

– an enormously encouraging statement, given the calibre and diversity of stakeholders and global decision-makers present.

Next, on Wednesday afternoon, we had the inaugural meeting of the Global Alliance on Climate-Smart Agriculture. This event had an impressive and diverse line-up of speakers, and included rousing statements which highlighted challenges, opportunities and affirmed broad commitments to action. At various points, the Africa CSA Alliance was singled out as being the most appropriate vehicle to support grassroots implementation of CSA in Africa. The event was followed by a reception hosted by John Kerry, US Secretary of State, and Sharon Dijksma, Dutch Minister for Agriculture, both of whom spoke earnestly about the gravity of the challenges facing the planet, the disproportionate impact on the most vulnerable and food insecure populations, and the commitment of their respective governments to make a difference.

While the UN Climate Week in New York provided a fantastic platform to showcase the developing Africa CSA Alliance, and engage with the UN, governments, multilateral agencies, and other relevant stakeholders to explore opportunities for new partnerships – increasing support or otherwise enhancing the work of the Alliance – the revelation for me was in hearing the resounding endorsement and support that already exists. We heard from the African Union and several African nations of the ownership they have in the Africa CSA Alliance – the sense that this Alliance is a significant part of Africa’s own solution to address food insecurity and the impacts of climate change, and we heard from the UN and multilateral agencies of their support for the efforts of the Alliance, and the game-changing nature of the collaboration between African governments, iNGOs, the scientific community and civil society – an initiative “that will deliver the solutions of the future”.

In the words of Sharon Dijksma:

“What will we tell our children when they grow up and ask what we did in 2014, when we had a chance to make a difference?”

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