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Building Climate-Resilient Food Systems in Africa

From drought ravaging the Horn of Africa, to wildfires raging across Canada and Europe, the need to raise ambition and keep global temperatures down remains visible and urgent.  

Africa Climate Week, held between September 4th – 8th, is among the UN regional climate weeks to build momentum ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference, COP 28 in Dubai. Held in Nairobi, Kenya, summit discussions will inform the global stocktake event at COP28, sharing solutions, barriers, and opportunities to address climate change among policymakers, practitioners, business leaders, and civil society.  

In parallel, the Africa Food Systems Summit, in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, will focus on Africa’s solutions to food systems transformation, exploring what works and lessons learned, while focusing on the role of women and youth in agriculture.  

Food security and climate change: the critical link  

If food waste were a country, it would be the 3rd highest emitter of emissions. Food systems generate 34% of global greenhouse gas emissions and use up to 70% of freshwater resources. Making the food system more efficient is critical to reducing emissions, curbing climate impacts, limiting rising costs, and meeting Sustainable Development Goals.  

For long-term food security, and to build climate-resilient food systems, investments in agriculture must be channeled to support smallholder farmers to become more resilient to climate shocks in the short and medium term too. It is their ability to absorb, withstand, and overcome such shocks that will put more nutritious food on the table for all.  

That is why GAFSP’s projects focus on solutions that support smallholder farmers, countries and agribusinesses to proactively adapt to changing circumstances right away, through access to climate-resilient, drought-resistant seed varieties, or more efficient intercropping methods for example. While, at the same time, equipping them with long-term solutions to sequester carbon, restore grasslands, or avoid deforestation and afforestation.

Since 2017, 100% of GAFSP’s public sector projects have delivered some level of climate co-benefits. GAFSP financed 27 projects in Africa with climate co-benefits, with over $807 million in financing towards Africa’s climate adaptation and mitigation of the agricultural sector. 

Short, medium and long-term solutions 

In Rwanda, the farmer and father of two, Jean-Paul Kubwimana, was supported to supply more, and better-quality produce, from beans to passion fruits, to domestic, regional, and international markets. With a matching grant from a self-help group – a grant paid on condition that a certain amount of funding is also contributed by the farmer –through the GAFSP-funded Sustainable Agricultural Intensification and Food Security Project (SAIP), Mr. Kubwimana increased his income by 15 times, earning up to US$150 a week.  

Financial support and training have helped him acquire a greenhouse – a structure that allows him to grow more nutritious tomatoes for the local market and community, by better controlling weather conditions such as drought, intense winds, heavy rainfall, or hailstorms. 

Healthy food, better nutrition  

In Tanzania, maize and groundnuts are key food security and export crops. But these crops are also highly susceptible to fungal infestation, or aflatoxin contamination—the leading cause of liver disease and liver cancer in Tanzania— reducing the well-being of the population and the country’s export-earning potential. Aflatoxin levels and impacts are expected to increase with higher temperatures and increased water stress.  

Supervised by the African Development Bank and supported with GAFSP funding, the Tanzania Initiative for Preventing Aflatoxin Contamination (TANIPAC) is rehabilitating the Ministry of Agriculture’s National Bio-control Unit. The aim is to establish a post-harvest center of excellence for grains and a central agriculture reference laboratory. The unit will help control toxic compounds naturally produced by certain types of molds or fungi along the food production and supply chain while supporting better partnerships with commercial buyers. 


“Training on aflatoxin prevention has helped me as a business man and as a transporter to understand the possible dangers that I impose to humans and my business. . .I have reduced risks of damaging my maize due to unforeseen rains and now my business has improved since fungi contaminated maize has also reduced.” Jackson Mbilizi, Transporter from Kibaigwa Maize market.

At the same time, the project carries out public awareness and education on food safety, nutrition, and aflatoxin mitigation, and supports the development of bylaws to regulate codes of practice for maize and groundnuts. These efforts have supported more than 130,000 smallholder farmers to deal with the short-term impacts of climate change, earning more income and growing more nutritious foods, while also building longer-term coping strategies. 


“I have been an artisan for a long time but I never knew that metal silos can be created for household use. With this project, I acquired skills and knowledge on building up metal silos but also other added knowledge on aflatoxin prevention. Up to now, I have created two metal silos for my customers and I have three more orders. This is good for my business!” Vicent Ndigomo, benefited artisan, Kongwa.

Emergency responses need to be conducted in short sprints – like putting out wildfires. But responding to the impacts of climate change also requires that we think ahead. The race to transform Africa’s food systems is a long-haul marathon, not a sprint. GAFSP is already in the race and takes a holistic, flexible, demand-driven approach to help farmers fight back against the impacts of climate change while supporting more robust food systems in the long term.