Interview with Debisi O. Araba, Africa Director, International Center for Tropical Agriculture
What is your current role at CIAT?
I am the Director for CIAT in Africa. In my role, I lead strategy and work closely with colleagues and representatives of partner organizations to implement it.
In Africa, our strategy includes a roadmap which focuses on four thematic areas, all of which represent our value proposition in Africa. These are: leveraging markets through improved productivity and competitiveness; agriculture for improved nutrition and health; transforming farms and landscapes for sustainability; and investment planning for resilient agriculture.
How is CIAT working on climate-smart agriculture (CSA)?
CIAT has been at the forefront of promoting climate-smart agriculture in developing countries. We lead the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS). Among the priorities of CCAFS is formulating tools to help local, national and global decision-makers decide on priorities and policies around climate-smart agriculture.
The CSA profiles are among those tools. These quick and easy-to-read documents give an overview of agricultural challenges in countries and suggest how climate-smart agriculture can help farmers improve their productivity while adapting to and mitigating climate change. The profiles were developed in partnership with the World Bank and the USAID’s Bureau for Food Security.
We have so far developed CSA profiles for 23 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and South America. In Kenya, we’ve developed climate-risk profiles for 31 counties, which is helping to inform public sector investment planning in the Kenya CSA program.
What do you hope to achieve at the Climate Smart Agriculture Summit?
The Africa Climate Smart Agriculture Summit offers an excellent opportunity to exchange knowledge and build connections and partnerships with key players in CSA. I see it as an occasion to establish and strengthen partnerships with global policymakers, as well as representatives from the public and private sectors and civil society.
At the summit, my colleagues at CIAT and I will also be launching the CSA profiles for Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali and Niger, so we look forward to getting the thoughts of government officials and investors on these profiles and hope that they spur increased investments and improve prioritization in the sector.
Which topics or areas of the agenda are most interesting for you?
If it’s agriculture related, we’re interested! This year, I am keen to see how well aligned our four themes are with the hopes and aspirations of all stakeholders, to ensure that we are channelling our energies towards addressing the challenges our partners face. On the agenda specifically, I’m excited about the topics on scaling up the adoption of innovations in CSA practices; linking government, civil society and NGOs, and strengthening public-private partnerships; ICT for agri and mAgri solutions and de-risking agriculture finance through affordable access to credit and insurance.
How can we increase the impact of existing and new CSA initiatives?
First, we need to approach agriculture as a business. I know it’s almost now cliché, but we have to go beyond demonstrating the efficacy of technologies and address how these can be adopted with less risk to the vale chain actor. You have to start with meeting each actor ‘where they are’ understanding the nuances and variations in their challenges and not try to be generic in our intervention. Also, each actor should be supported to play their role – for example, governments must be supported to institute policies and execute programs based on evidence. The private sector (at all levels) should also be made to see the business case for investing in CSA, and afforded pathways to adopt this. Also, we need to rejig the pathways for agriculture extension. We need to be able to reach many more farmers with innovative technologies and practices and afford them the space to adapt these for their needs.
Debisi O. Araba will be speaking at the Africa Climate Smart Agriculture Summit in Nairobi on 15-16 May on the panel: Africa’s Quiet Revolution in Agriculture: Insurance and Ensurance. To see the agenda and other speakers visit csa-aidforum.org.