Experts in agriculture and climate change say that a proclamation supported by 134 world leaders during the first few days of COP28, the international climate conference taking place in Dubai this month, is excellent news for small farmers around the world.
According to summit authorities, the leaders have raised more than $2.5 billion in support of the COP28 UAE Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems, and Climate Action, which aims to address climate challenges relating to agriculture.
Along with the proclamation, a number of additional projects were announced, such as a $200 million cooperation between the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the host UAE, which would fund research connected to agriculture.
"Nations ought to prioritize food systems and agriculture in their climate goals, tackling global emissions and safeguarding the lives and means of subsistence of farmers who are directly affected by climate change," stated Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri, the UAE's minister for climate change and the environment, during the declaration's December 1 release.
"A global food system fit for the future will be built with today's commitment from countries around the world," she declared.
Experts in both agriculture and climate change have warmly greeted the declaration's acknowledgment of the connection between food and climate, which was signed by representatives of more than 5.7 billion people and almost 500 million farmers.
Richard Ouedraogo, project manager for the Secrétariat Permanent des Organisations Non Gouvernementales (SPONG) from Burkina Faso, stated, "If all this is well-managed with farmers at the center of operations, accompanied by civil society organisations, these resources and partnerships will enable farmers to scale up the sustainable food systems they are already practicing, but with limited means."
This will significantly lessen their susceptibility to food, and they will be able to show more interest in and commitment to climate change issues by implementing and stepping up methods to address climate change," he said to VOA.
In an interview conducted outside of the Dubai conference, Rosinah Mbenya, the country coordinator for a network of nongovernmental organizations in Kenya focused on agriculture, expressed a similar sense of hope.
Nbebya, whose organization, PELUM Kenya, promotes agro-ecological principles and practices to improve the livelihoods and resilience of small-scale farmers and pastoralists, said that the declaration "gives hope that the small-scale farmers and pastoralists will be at the center of climate action through increased attention on resilient programs and financing."
The extra financing is anticipated to support the kinds of programs that are already in place in countries such as Ethiopia, where farmers have been able to save millions of dollars by averting losses due to crop disease thanks to a warning system.
Additionally, farmers in a number of African nations are cultivating novel crop varieties that are more resistant to the stresses brought on by climate change.
"This will represent a significant positive step forward in the lives of smallholder farmers," according to Edward Leo Davey, who has advised the COP28 chair on food this year, if leaders in the signatory countries move toward true implementation of the declaration in their countries.
"Farmers in these areas and beyond need assistance and funding for extension services, such as more resilient and varied seed types," stated Davey, the World Resources Institute's partnerships director for the Food and Land Use Coalition in London.
According to him, they also require "more resilient and diverse seed varieties; digital technology and meteorological data access; and the kinds of infrastructure and capital access that will enable them to get their products to market in the context of a changing climate more quickly and safely."
The proclamation, according to Cameroonian climate justice activist Ewi Stephanie Lamma, self-employed, encourages farmers to use sustainable farming practices including agroecology, organic farming, and agroforestry, as is being done in her own nation by the Voices for Forests Alliance.
According to her statement to VOA, these eco-friendly methods "help reduce the use of harmful agrochemicals, conserve water resources, and protect soil health." "Adaptive strategies help farmer’s better handle climate-related hazards, such as crop diversification and enhanced irrigation systems.”