Climate-smart agriculture can improve the effectiveness of European aid in addressing food crises

AVSI proposals to trigger sustainable change processes until the last mile published by the web magazine of the think-thank Friends of Europe

Countries Uganda
Date 08.05.2023
Author Francis Obita AVSI Agriculture and Food Security Focal Point - Gabriele Regio AVSI Caribbean Program Coordinator for Agriculture & Food Security

The European Union has continued to support low and middle-income countries (LMICs) around the world through emergency responses and the facilitation of development agendas.

Through its many financial instruments and programmes managed by the Directorates-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) and International Partnerships (INTPA), the EU has consistently been responsive to the global agenda. Addressing food insecurity through strategic investment in agriculture has been a constant theme in Europe’s intervention frameworks. The Green Deal and its Farm to Fork Strategy are evidence of this and support the ambitious fight against the global food crisis that emerged due to disruptions in the global food supply chain caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and exacerbated by the Russia-Ukraine War. Through international cooperation and trade policy, the EU pursues the development of green alliances on sustainable food systems with all its partners in bilateral, regional and multilateral fora. These commitments have been reaffirmed by the Council in 2022 with its call for a “Team Europe response to global food insecurity” through four actions:

  • solidarity through emergency relief and support for affordability;
  • boosting sustainable production, resilience and food system transformation;
  • facilitating trade by helping Ukraine export agricultural products via different routes and supporting global trade;
  • effective multilateralism and strong support for the central role of the United Nations Global Crisis Response Group to coordinate global efforts.

After decades of European aid and in the light of the new strategies promoted by the EU in Africa, questions arise around the effectiveness of the implementation models and approaches applied in the dispensation of aid funds and resources.

Many interventions to address short, medium or long-term needs are well-intentioned but present barriers in the last mile. For example, the carbon credit market is a huge opportunity for owners of carbon sinks at the smallholder level, yet the requirements and terms of access cut out most smallholders, leaving bigger actors to benefit from the initiative, which goes exactly against intended aims.

The EU’s Global Gateway strategy, which promotes investments in digital infrastructure, should also take into account aspects of agriculture

It is increasingly urgent for institutions such as the EU to increasingly take into account the impact that climate-smart agriculture (CSA) can have on integrated, holistic project development and small-scale farmers.

The EU should take the opportunity of the mid-term review of the Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027 to enhance results-oriented support for agricultural productivity and incomes, which could lead to EU-sponsored projects having a real impact on the sustainable increase in production and consequently on the growth of rural households’ incomes.

The EU’s Global Gateway strategy, which promotes investments in digital infrastructure, should also take into account aspects of agriculture, as well as climate change adaptation and resilience building. Through the promotion of innovative and nature-based technology packages, small and medium-sized producers may be able to adapt to the effects caused by climate change, such as prolonged droughts, new diseases, storms and hurricanes of higher intensity.

Furthermore, nutritional sensitivity within agricultural systems could contribute to the resilience of food systems, supporting food availability and quality in local markets, as well as nutrition education regarding adequate and healthy food preparation.

The integration of productive waste management in value chains should be increasingly supported to promote the recycling and reuse of waste as input for other activities. For example, utilising waste from coffee processing to produce compost can limit the use of chemical fertilisers, which contribute to 60% of coffee’s carbon footprint.

Green agriculture can play a pivotal role in addressing the biggest challenges of food crises

The EU and local counterparts should increasingly support national policies for rural strategies based on CSA and nature-based solutions, as well as foster dialogue among the multiple actors involved.

These proposals are rooted in the experience of many projects that have been implemented in different countries and that consider CSA as the key to change. Among these experiences is the successful SKY project, a five-year skills development project implemented in 36 districts of Uganda. The project was implemented by AVSI and supported by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands via public-private partnerships with a multitude of actors, including skills provider agribusinesses, agri-institutions, secondary schools, third-party technical service providers and government agencies spread across Central, East, North and West Africa.

The project targeted 2,000 youths between the ages of 14 and 17 to change mindsets about agriculture and engaging in agribusiness, and 6,000 youths between the ages of 18 and 36 for immediate employment in the agribusiness sub-sector. Of the 6,000, the project targeted 3,000 for facilitation into self-employment and 1,000 for wage employment through job brokerage.

SKY equipped the targeted youth with employable skills in green agribusiness, supporting their employment and enabling providers to offer quality and green agri-skilling services through the achievement of four specific objectives: strengthening agri-institutions’ capacities to offer quality skills training; enhancing pre- and post-employment services to targeted youth; increasing capacities of agribusinesses as agri-skills providers; and boosting the Skilling Uganda’s Agriculture Sector Skills Council’s mandate to support agri-skilling across the country.

Green agriculture can play a pivotal role in addressing the biggest challenges of food crises. If aid funds are to reach the last mile, we must study concrete cases, measure the impact of multi-stakeholder approaches and learn from the field to trigger sustainable change processes.

This article is a contribution from AVSI as partner organisation of Friends of Europe