Call for a network

Food Security and Climate Change in Sub Saharan Africa

Call for an International Network of agronomists, economists, decision makers and  NGO’s dealing with sustainable development, to achieve up to 2050 food security in Sub Saharan Africa and at the same time contribute to climate change mitigation launched by Arthur Riedacker Research Director at INRA (National Agronomical Research Institute) former negotiator for climate , and Peace co Nobel prize for its contributions to IPCC since 1990, Jean Marc Boussard Research Director at INRA (National Agronomical Research Institute) and Joseph Racapé, Former member of the Interministerial Mission for the Greenhouse Effect, in charge of agriculture.

The Situation

Between now and 2050 population in Sub-Saharan Africa will double, and in some countries it could even triple. It is therefore necessary to increase food production. Countries which cannot achieve that will have to import more food, provided they can afford it…

Two options are possible to achieve that necessary increase in food production:

  • either increasing land under cultivation, which requires clearing of additional grassland and forestland1, which would increase greenhouse gas emissions (GHG),  soil erosion risks and affect biodiversity;
  • or increasing land use efficiency, the solar energy bioconversion, to increase food production on already cultivated land, through reduction of fallow land and by increasing yields (through various improved practices such as agroforestry, changing species and plant combinations, increasing organic and mineral inputs etc.).

Meanwhile climate change may decrease yields up to 30%. This threat is another reason to increase already to day “land use efficiency”  in Sub–Saharan African, as this may at the same time reduce vulnerability of vulnerable countries but which are less contributing to GHG emissions per capita than industrialized countries.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), on the basis of published and reviewed scientific literature, considers that to stabilize the climate in 2050 and to avoid any dangerous climate evolution,  world GHG emissions are to be divided by 2 in 2050, and those of industrialized countries are therefore to be divided at least  by 4. G8 leaders adopted that target in Hokkaido, in July 2008.

In the European Union the price of emission reductions ranges today between 15 € and 20 € per ton of CO2equivalent.  But this price may go up to 60 € during the coming years, as reaching this target is a great challenge. To stabilize the climate, capture and geological storage of CO2 emitted by thermal plants using fossil fuel will also become necessary. But this costs today still about 100 € for each ton of CO2 removed and stored. And that cost is not expected to come down to 60 € before 2020!

In comparison with a price of only 15 € per ton of avoided CO2 emission, as today, the payment for avoiding the conversion of an average hectare (with 50% grassland and 50% forestland) into cropland would avoid the emissions of about 200 t of CO2  and therefore deserve a payment of about 3000 € per hectare (without any interest). This would allow, during the next 50 years, an annual payment of about 60 € per ha per “average” avoided land use change. Various actions to increase land use efficiency would therefore become possible: increasing inputs (in particular of phosphorus and organic matter, and also of nitrogen and potassium); planting trees and hedges to recycle some soil minerals, to provide more organic matter and to fix atmospheric nitrogen with leguminous species; establishing small damns; sometimes also water pumping; reducing losses in cereal and other crop storage, etc. The resulting increase in food availability would provide a valuable net benefit.

To day yields of food crops in Sub-Saharan Africa are very low, in particular due to too little organic and mineral inputs :  only about 10 kg of fertilizer per hectare and per year, 20 times less than in industrialized countries and 10 times less than the world average input on cropland per ha!  Many food and environmental problems could be solved with an average input of 100 kg/ha. But just by raising these inputs up to 50 kg/ha (a quarter of the average input in industrialized countries) in 2015, as proposed in 2006 by the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD), agricultural productions could already be significantly increased. Thus during the post 2012 Kyoto commitment period, between 2012 and 2020, degradation of mineral soil fertility and desertification could be curbed.

The Proposal

On the basis of this assessment, specialists, decision makers and NGOs dealing with agricultural projects are invited to join us. We are planning to show clearly to the international community that increasing land use efficiency of already cultivated land in Sub-Saharan Africa is not only possible, but also desirable: It could help both to increase food security and to combat climate change. This would help not only to increase ‘Food security’ but also to achieve the first objective of the “United Nations’ Millennium Goal” which is presently to reduce at least by 600 million the number of people not getting enough food every day. The international community should therefore make this objective become a priority in the negotiations, in particular in Copenhagen at the end of 2009, and up to Mexico at the end of 2010.

The work program of specialists willing to participate in this action has therefore five complementary tasks:

  1. Showing through precisely documented examples that land use and conversion efficiencies can be increased significantly through various ways in Sub–Saharan Africa without reaching the average level of inputs in agriculture of industrialized countries or of some Asian regions. This task requires contributions in particular of agronomists, of soil scientist,, of livestock specialists as well as of grass root actors.
  2. Based on these examples, quantifying avoided GHG emissions, for a given increase of food production, in either with unchanged practices or with just business as usual changes. This task requires contributions of specialists, familiar with IPCC guidelines for GHG emissions assessments and able to compare scenarios not just with classical Life Cycle Analyses (LCA), but with “Spatial and Live Cycle Analysis (SLCA).
  3. Actions emitting less GHG emissions than with business due to more energy efficient technologies or the use of renewable are already rewarded under the Clean Development Mechanism. Like for energy we are to now reward agricultural developments with better territorial efficiencies to need less land use change.   What are the best ways to use financial, e.g. GHG credits, which may be made available by industrialized countries: direct subsidies for inputs and/or other actions?  This task requires contributions of specialists of Kyoto mechanisms and agricultural policies.
  4. Determining the effects of increasing food production on the balance of trade of developing countries in Sub–Saharan Africa, and the possible long term effect on their national budgets,  and possible changes that this might need in agricultural policies in these countries as well as in industrialized countries. This task requires economists, agricultural economists and macroeconomists.
  5. Informing decision makers and climate change negotiators in the United Nations of this two pronged objective: increasing food security in Sub–Saharan Africa and curbing GHG emission in these countries to contribute to the stabilization of the world climate by 2050. And offering several modalities of actions that could fit into the new international agreements for the 2012-2020 period, the second commitment period under the Kyoto or Copenhagen Protocol. This action will be promoted until the final modalities of actions are agreed for after 2012. This latter task needs the support of decision makers, of negotiators and of various actors truly convinced by the importance of this action and by the need to support it.

Documents supporting this approach should be ready before the end of April 2010 and then discussed publicly in various fora and conferences.
September 2009

To contribute to these work groups, to support this initiative or to contribute financially contact

Laisser un commentaire

Votre adresse de messagerie ne sera pas publiée. Les champs obligatoires sont indiqués avec *