Press release IV: FANRPAN convenes climate change meeting for senior policy makers

Policy makers and scientists from eastern and southern Africa are meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa to discuss strategies for adapting to climate change which has implications for food security. 

The Food Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) are hosting a meeting which has brought together policy makers and scientists to network in developing adaptation strategies to ensure regional food security in the light of adverse weather changes. More than 40 delegates from 12 countries are attending the meeting with the theme, "Strategies for Adapting to Climate Change in Rural Sub-Saharan Africa: Targeting the Most Vulnerable". 

Scientists and researchers have warned that climate change - described as long term changes in average weather conditions - is a global phenomenon affecting plants, animals, people and agriculture. The Global Food crisis presents an opportune moment for southern Africa to review its policies and put in place long term strategies that will make it food secure and eliminate poverty. Researchers working on climate change projects in eastern and southern Africa presently do not have strong links with policy makers. As a result, there is a high level of uncertainty about policy on climate change. Strong and inclusive policies are key to increasing agricultural productivity and investment, to support Africa’s green revolution. 

FANRPAN Director for Research, Dr. Douglas Merrey, said his organization is well placed to act as a broker between scientists, doing research on climate change and adaptation to climate change, and policy makers to make critical decisions, some of which have irreversible effects if they are uninformed. 

"Our main focus is on the policy implications of climate change, that is to say, what policy support will be needed to enable Southern African food systems to adapt to climate change in terms of rainfall and temperature," said Dr. Merrey. 

FANRPAN's interest in climate change policy extends beyond specific projects in the region to researchers and representatives of civil society who need to know what is required of policy. 

"As FANRPAN we are interested in policy development because people are facing the reality of uncertainty and unpredictability in terms of rainfall and temperatures," Dr. Merrey said, adding that, "The workshop intends to develop a work plan for a three year project which started in May 2008 and will end in May 2010." 

The German Ministry of Cooperation (BMZ) through IFPRI is funding this climate change research project in eastern and southern Africa. It has brought in climate modeling experts. The experts have developed climate models which simulate possible scenarios based on actual agriculture and weather data. Climate models help project future trends in terms of the magnitude of climate change. 

According to Gerald Nelson, Senior Research Fellow at IFPRI, the central issue during the meeting is to figure out how to deal with the likelihood of adverse effects of climate change. 

"Some changes are inevitable," said Nelson "We need to figure out how to adapt to the changes that are coming such as the variability in weather patterns…What is the best scientific evidence about where changes will take place in terms of precipitation and temperature change?" 

Nelson said IFPRI was collaborating with FANRPAN and ASARECA to promote collaboration between international and national research institutions on climate change policy. IFPRI is well known for its agricultural policy modeling work and will use its expertise to inform policy development in sub-Saharan Africa. 

"We want to listen to what policy makers from various countries see as their priorities in terms of climate change and policy," he said noting that "There are many, many projects related to climate change and adaptation in southern Africa. It seems many are doing the same thing and we have asked them to tell us about their projects and look for ways to achieve synergies among them." 

Both SADC and the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA) with the participation of FANRPAN and other partners are developing a comprehensive approach and initiative to address climate change. 

FANRPAN's CEO, Dr. Lindiwe Majele Sibanda, is participating in a workshop on Carbon Finance at which COMESA seeks to attract investors to purchase carbon offsets from land-use projects through a Carbon Fund. This Fund will provide critical financial support to make such projects feasible and channel income to local communities, especially small holder farmers. 

For further information and interviews, please contact: 
Dr. Lindiwe Majele Sibanda, CEO, FANRPAN, 
141 Cresswell Street, Weavind Park 0184 
Private Bag X813, Silverton 0127 
Pretoria, South Africa 
Tel: +27 (0) 12 845 9100