Ambassador Josefa Sacko is the Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture at the African Union Commission (AUC). She speaks on steps taken by the commission to address environmental issues and achieve the mandates of the Paris Agreement.
We have been celebrating the African Environment Day (AED) in the last 12 years, what is your assessment so far?
It was in 2002 that our heads of state decided to commemorate the AED, and 2004 came with our own Nobel Prize Laureate, the late Wangari Mathaai, winning the prize. She did a lot to preserve and conserve the environment. With that, we started celebrating years later to create awareness.
As you know, we need to preserve the environment for today’s generation and future generations.
We are really encountering a lot of challenges in terms of reviewing policies on how to preserve illegal exploitation of our fauna and flora. We have deforestation and illegal fishing because there are no right policies in terms of how we are going to use our resources and conserve them.
Would you say the events of WED have been able to meet the targets of AED?
I will say the events have been very successful, and the fact that in the past three years we came out with the key actors that play roles in the environment sector: these are women. This women component brought this event to be very meaningful because women work with the natural resources and know how to preserve them.
The forum of women on environment has really been successful, and the platform, “Africa WISE”, that we launched, is the way forward. A lot has been done. If you don’t organise these environmental groups into an association, you’re not doing anything, because Africa has 55 countries and with a lot of associations. So if you discuss all the movements, it’s better to create synergy.
Last year we did the same thing with “Women in Agriculture”. We recognised rural women; their value and their effort, because 80 per cent of what we are eating in terms of food are being produced by women. 60 per cent of the labour is women. So we launched a platform for them in 2019.
It is the same department at the African Union (AU) that deals with all these types of initiations. So at the department we are going to see how we can create synergy and create a concession to look at how to go through socio-economic transformation on the continent because we have a lot of challenges like food security, conflicts, climate change and economic slowdown. So to achieve food security, it can only be by bringing all the actors and working with them.
We have to make a proper action plan, a road map to monitor what they are doing. We all know what the women need. The first problem is access to land. So the forum looked at how women can have access to land.
At AUC, we have the land tenure centre which is being hosted by ECA UNICA. We want to make the centre instrumental for our member countries to help set proper policies and strategies so that women can have land tenure secured.
What are your personal expectations of the group launched?
We are talking about environment; we have the Paris Agreement. The agreement was in 2015 during the CoP 21, and we have our National Determine Contribution. So the implication is to implement the Paris agreement; it’s to reduce emissions.
To reduce emissions, we have to go to green economy, and knowing that these women are really committed, we can go towards that. With that, we need finance. In the industrialised countries, they promised us in 2016 in CoP 22, at least $100bn yearly to replenish the climate change fund, but up till now they are not doing anything, and we need to implement our NDCs to create adaptation because the climate extreme events are becoming more recurrent.
We saw what happened last year in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi, so we really need to look at how we can respond; what mechanism to use. At AUC, we are talking about emergencies. Create a fund for emergencies, especially when you look at what climate change is causing on the continent in terms of food security. It’s very serious. Look at the desert locusts in the Horn of Africa, how we can address this type of outbreak, because the farmer is already poor, he’s going to cultivate his plants, but he cannot harvest because of climate change. The weather today is very favourable for the laying of eggs of the swarms and they are really multiplying.
We have pests and diseases, drought, floods, desertification, deforestation, landslides and water race for island states. There are lot of challenges, but I believe with this platform we can find solutions and make our own voice heard.
Africa is not the cause of climate change in the world; we have only four per cent of the responsibility, but we are the most vulnerable part of the globe that is really hit by the effects of climate change and constant hazards on the continent.
Since the donations are not forthcoming and it is agreed that Africa has resources to tackle all these challenges, what advice do you have for African governments?
It’s not that Africa is not doing anything; it is doing a lot. We have some Africa countries that are investing two per cent of their GDP for hazard issues to build resilience, because we have our biannual review report that reports indicators on resilience. Resilience is one of the commitments of the Malabo Declaration.