Putting farmers first: How can we ensure the future of farming and food amidst the climate crisis? - 6 Dec

Core message

"When we talk of climate change, it exacerbates the low productivity of farmers in Africa. Addressing this challenge is integral to ensuring food security. Support is crucial to enhance the productivity of smallholder farmers." - Babafemi Oyewole, CEO, Pan-African Farmers’ Organization


Farmers, particularly smallholders, form the foundation of food systems, yet those in the Global South are particularly vulnerable to climate change.  Existing adaptation efforts and support fall short. With escalating climate risks, urgent action is needed to expedite financing and implement climate change actions in agri-food and livestock systems, both to reduce emissions and ensure food and nutrition security.  

On 6 December 2023, Advancing Livestock for Climate (ALIVE4C) hosted ‘Putting farmers first: How can we ensure the future of farming and food amidst the climate crisis?’ plenary session at the Food Systems Pavilion. With a goal of achieving a net-zero livestock sector, farmers proposed interventions for capital and insurance access. Their call to action stressed the need for improved soil health, resilient food systems, and farmer-centric approaches, with a shift to sustainable practices facilitated by increased funding and direct collaboration with farmers to adapt practices to local contexts. The event enhanced understanding sustainable agri-food and livestock systems, bringing together stakeholders to galvanize support for investing in smallholder producers, contributing to land degradation mitigation and food systems transformation.

Key Takeaways

Smallholder farmers should be prioritized in climate action. Discussions underscored the dual burden farmers face: environmental damage from livestock practices and the dependence on livestock for livelihoods. Placing smallholders in the center of efforts is a commitment to addressing their specific needs in adaptation and mitigation.

Defining pathways to achieve a net-zero livestock sector in low-income countries is a key priority. Advances in adaptation efforts and increased livestock productivity are of critical need. A commitment to sustainable practices and a recognition of the environmental impact of livestock was emphasized, seeking a balance between productivity and ecological responsibility.

"Livestock systems must change to reduce their environmental impact on climate and human health. We need to change in a socially just manner, ensuring that the changes do not compromise the numerous benefits these systems provide to the communities they serve." -Namukolo Covic, ILRI Director General’s Representative to Ethiopia and CGIAR Regional Director to East and Southern Africa

Inclusive Solutions are at the heart of the session’s call to action. Interventions pitched by farmers, such as access to capital and insurance, underscore the importance of financial resilience for smallholder farmers. The broader call to action encompassed soil health, resilient food systems, and farmer-centric approaches, emphasizing the need for a holistic shift towards sustainable practices and inclusivity in agricultural development.  

"We are directing our attention towards achieving SDG 15 [to restore and promote sustainable use of land] but we must not lose our focus on SDG 1 [no poverty] and SDG 2 [zero hunger].” - Monica Yator, Pastoralist Farmer and Founder, Indigenous Women and Girls Initiative

Looking Forward

The calls to action for building more resilience towards adaptation in agri-food and livestock smallholder production systems proposed by the farmers and commented on by the expert panel helped lay a pathway forward for locally developed solutions accepted by policymakers and supported by other stakeholders. The session concluded with a call for stakeholders to collaborate in building evidence and supporting investment, while thinking of the farmer first. 

Watch a recording of the full session here.