Difficult questions were raised at the Effective cooperation for a Green Africa (ECOGA) congress in Klimahaus Bremerhaven 8° Ost, in regards to Africa and the continent’s ability to combat hunger without further impacts on the ecological balance. This 1st African congress, held from 12th – 13th September was in cooperation with the German Climate Foundation and the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen and brought together international experts from NGOs, companies, universities and international organisations to discuss the potentials and obstacles of green growth in Africa.
Opting to focus on the positive aspects of Africa, speaker after another sought to dispel the commonly held negative notion of Africa. While the continent has its challenges, it also was showcased as a key player on the international scene as far as green growth goes. It was clear that Africa has great potential to sustainably shape the upcoming stages of development thanks to its resources. The focus was therefore on the role of green growth as a link between poverty reduction and sustainable development; more importantly on how it could be designed to meet the social economic and environmental requirements.
Speakers were however in agreement that for this to become a reality a lot more still needed to be done. Participants heard that before the world could start to point Africa on the pathway to sustainable development and especially with the aim of turning the continent green, some basic foundations still had to be laid.
On the discussion table were topics such as the nature of education and training needed to embed sustainable processes in the population regarding the forms of agriculture and land use needed to pave way for a more sustainable food supply in the continent. The congress also focused extensively on the relation between land use and food security. It was noted that land grabbing still remained one of the greatest obstacles to food security in the continent.
In Ethiopia for instance, land grabbing was likened to the second scramble for African land, water and resources. Speaking on the subject, Obang Metho, Executive Director of the Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia, a social justice movement, noted that land grabbing and food insecurity went hand in hand with freedom. ”Land issues are political, therefore those who try to speak or protest are either thrown in jail or forced to live in exile,” he explained.
The big debate was on how the increasing demand for food of the growing African population could be met in the face of obstacles brought about by the effects of land grabbing. Examples from Sahel, Uganda and Sierre Leone also shown that while the governments were eager to sell land through actively encouraging foreign investors, and by so doing heightening an already vulnerable situation, there were also positive stories of how the farmers were coping with risks posed not only by these uncertainties but also by climate change.
In the Sahel for instance, through further exploration of tradition farming methods, such as the construction of terraces for small-scale irrigation, farmers were finding ways to adapt. Bernadette Ouattara, the director of INADES-Formation (Institut Africain de Développement Economique et Social) in the Burkina Faso branch, noted that her organisation was focusing on traditional knowledge sharing among farmers in the various regions of the Sahel. “Whatever traditional methods we find, among farmers in the west for example, we first try to make them more adaptable to climate change, then we teach them to farmers in the east or north and the circle continues,” she said.
It was concluded that owing to its resources, its biodiversity and its geographical location, Africa has great potential to shape the upcoming stages of development sustainably. Sustainable development strategies therefore afford the continent most affected by climate change the possibility to combine economic growth, social justice and ecological requirements.