Smallholder farmers from the Global South benefit from a grossly disproportionate 0.3% of international climate finance despite producing a third of the world’s food and despite holding the key to climate-proofing food systems.
The family farmers and rural communities received around USD 2 billion from both public and private international climate funds out of the USD 8.4 billion that went to the agriculture sector in 2021, even as over 2.5 billion people globally depended on the farms for their livelihoods.
The USD 8.4 billion was almost half of the USD 16 billion that was availed for the energy sector and is only a fraction of the estimated USD 300-350 billion needed annually to “create more sustainable and resilient food systems,” a new report has found.
The amount was also quite different from the USD 170 billion that smallholder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa alone would require per year, the study on global public finance for climate mitigation and adaptation conducted by Dutch climate advisory company Climate Focus has found.
The low level of climate finance for agriculture, forestry, and fishing is of concern, given the impact of climate change on food production and the extent to which food and agriculture are fueling the climate and biodiversity crisis.
Agricultural productivity has declined by 21 percent due to climate change, while the food and agriculture sector as a whole is responsible for 29 percent of greenhouse gas emissions and 80 percent of global deforestation, the study explains.
The farmers have been sidelined by global climate funders and locked out of decision-making processes on food and climate despite being the engines of rural economic growth. This is especially so in Sub-Saharan Africa, where up to 80 percent of agriculture is by smallholder farmers and where 23 percent of regional GDP is attributable to the sector.
It reveals that 80 percent of international public climate finance spent on the agri-food sector is channeled through governments and donor country NGOs, making it hard for smallholder farmers’ organizations to access it. This is because of complex eligibility rules and application processes and a lack of information on how and where to apply.
Many family farmers also lack the infrastructure, technology, and resources to adapt to climate impacts, with serious implications for global food security and rural economies as well, it notes.
The study ‘Untapped Potential: An analysis of international public climate finance flows to sustainable agriculture and family farmers,’ published on 14 November, laments that only a fifth of international public climate finance for food and agriculture supports sustainable practice. The money mainly goes to the Global North, even as agriculture becomes the third biggest source of global emissions. and the main driver of biodiversity loss.
“Climate change is hitting harvests and driving up food prices across the globe. It has helped push 122 million people into hunger since 2019. We need to create more sustainable and resilient food systems that can feed people in a changing climate, but we can’t do this without family farmers,” the report compiled on behalf of ten farmer organizations in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Pacific says.
“Family farmers are also key to climate adaptation. They are at the forefront of the shift to more diverse, nature-friendly food systems, which the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says is needed to safeguard food security in a changing climate,” it further notes.
The groups are led by the World Rural Forum and include African groups—the Eastern Africa Farmers Federation, Eastern and Southern Africa small-scale Farmers Forum, the Regional Platform of Farmers’ Organisations in Central Africa, and the Network of West African Farmers’ and Producers’ Organisations. Also part of the group is Northern Africa’s Maghreb and North African Farmers Union.
The Asian Farmers Association for Sustainable Rural Development, the Pacific Island Farmers Organization Network, the Confederation of Family Producers’ Organizations of Greater Mercosur, and the Regional Rural Dialogue Programme are also represented in the study.
Many of the farmers are already practicing climate-resilient agriculture, including approaches such as agroecology, which implies a wider variety of crops, including traditional ones, mixing crops, livestock, forestry, and fisheries, while reducing agrochemical use, and building strong connections to local markets.
The study by the new alliance of farmer networks representing over 35 million smallholder producers ahead of COP28, which is set to agree on a Global Goal for Adaptation, is concerned that since 2012, overall, only 11% of international public climate finance has been targeted at agriculture, forestry, and fishing, which amounts to an average of USD 7 billion a year.
In 2021, the World Bank, Germany, the Green Climate Fund, and European Union institutions contributed around half—54 percent, amounting to USD 4 billion collectively, while Nigeria, India, and Ethiopia were the top recipients, receiving a combined USD 1.8 billion. Notably, some of the world’s most food insecure countries, including Sudan, Sierra Leone, and Zambia, each received less than USD 20 million, it discloses.
“As the climate crisis pushes the global food system ever closer to collapse, it is vital that governments recognize family farmers as powerful partners in the fight against climate change,” it warns.
Hakim Baliriane, Chair of the Eastern and Southern Africa small-scale Farmers Forum, observed: “Climate change has helped push 122 million people into hunger since 2019. Reversing this trend will not be possible if governments continue to tie the hands of millions of family farmers.”
The study defines small-scale family farms as those of less than two hectares, mainly in developing countries.
On the other hand, international climate finance broadly refers to finance channeled to “activities that have a stated objective to mitigate climate change or support adaptation. These include multilateral flows in and outside the (UNFCCC) and the Paris Agreement, as well as bilateral flows at national and regional levels, including the Global Environment Facility, Adaptation Fund, and Green Climate Fund, and are usually disbursed as grants and concessional loans
The study finds that family farms are also the backbone of rural economies, supporting over 2.5 billion people globally who depend on family farms for their livelihoods. It says that in Sub-Saharan Africa, where up to 80 percent of farming is done by smallholder farmers, agriculture contributes 23 percent to regional Gross Domestic Product.
Family farmers are also key to climate adaptation in that they are at the forefront of the shift to more “diverse, nature-friendly food systems,” which, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), are critical in safeguarding food security in a changing climate.
It finds that millions of smallholder farmers are already practicing climate-resilient agriculture, including approaches such as agroecology—growing a wider variety of crops, including traditional crops, mixing crops, livestock, forestry, and fisheries, reducing agrochemicals use while building “strong connections to local markets.”
It concludes that governments must ensure that available climate finance for sustainable climate-resilient practices is increased, including that of agroecological approaches.
It explains: “This means funds to support diverse, nature-friendly approaches and to create community-based solutions that build on traditional expertise and experience.
It recommends that small-scale family farmers ought to have direct access to more climate finance and that financing mechanisms and funds should be developed with the participation of farmers’ organizations to meet their needs.
In addition, efforts should be made to ensure longer-term, flexible funding so that communities can determine their own priorities.
The role of the farmers as powerful catalysts for climate action, food system transformation, and the protection of biodiversity should be acknowledged and given a “real say” in decision-making on food and climate at the local, national, regional, and international levels. This should include decisions on land reform and agricultural subsidies.
The COP28 in Dubai later this month has food systems as a big part of the agenda.
An August report by the UK’s ActionAid has found that climate adaptation and green transition initiatives in the Global South received 20 times less financing when compared to main global emitters, fossil fuels, and intensive agriculture sectors in the last seven years.
It found that leading banking multinationals funded the emitters’ activities in the southern hemisphere to the tune of USD 3.2 trillion since 2015 when the Paris Agreement on Climate was adopted. German agrochemical giant Bayer was the biggest recipient of the financing, receiving an estimated USD 20.6 billion since 2016.