Farmers like to say that we owe our entire existence to a six-inch layer of topsoil and the fact that it rains, but with climate change bringing more frequent droughts, the adage is wearing worryingly thin.
In many African countries, where millions rely on small-scale, rain-fed agriculture, water scarcity has led to more “bust” than “boom” for food production in recent years.
With the continent facing the greatest impact of rising temperatures worldwide, Africa’s vulnerability and capacity to adapt to more extreme weather should be a global concern, but especially so for its close neighbors, donors, and principal trading partners in Europe.
After Africa Climate Week took place in Ghana last month (March 18-22), climate adaptation in agriculture should be high on the agenda and Europe should be watching closely for several reasons.
Firstly, the recognized success of a number of “climate-smart” practices offers hope that it is not only possible but also profitable for African smallholders to adapt to a new and unpredictable climate.
In our work at the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), we have seen encouraging results from a whole range of climate-smart techniques, from simple farming practices like crop rotation and minimum tillage to accurate weather forecasts sent by SMS.
And these outcomes, such as higher yields from drought-resistant seeds, make African agriculture a less risky and more attractive investment opportunity.
The private sector, particularly in Europe, is increasingly seeing the business case for engaging with climate-smart agriculture, which in turn is further helping to increase resilience.
One example is Livelihoods Funds, which is supported by investment from 12 private companies including Danone, Schneider Electric, Crédit Agricole, Groupe Caisse des Dépôts, Mars Inc and Veolia. It supports practical and efficient solutions that build resilient communities and sustainable businesses.
Elsewhere, concerns about the global supply of cocoa outstripping supply in the near future has prompted Mars Inc. to invest in sustainable and efficient production methods in major cocoa producing countries of West Africa.
And, in Zimbabwe, telecommunications group Econet Wireless entered a partnership with the Zimbabwe Farmers Union (ZFU) to provide a bundle of communication services via mobile and internet systems at a discounted rate.
Within two years, 39,000 farmers were receiving crop advice, weather forecasts and information about insurance, all of which helped them to contend with new climatic conditions and safeguard their livelihoods. As a result, they were also better placed to invest more in better inputs and services for their own farms.
Another reason why climate adaptation in agriculture is so important is that it can open up access to new trade markets, which is becoming increasingly important amid global economic uncertainty.
For example, traditional livestock keepers in Namibia have been working with the Meatco Foundation to improve their management of rangelands. This has helped improve trade opportunities within Africa and into Europe by allowing farmers to sell their high-quality and sustainably produced beef.
And Primark, the European clothes retailer, has extended support for sustainably produced cotton following successful sales. Finally, climate-smart agriculture offers a growing opportunity for sharing and learning from innovation, particularly when it comes to new technologies.
When farmer cooperatives, research organizations and companies collaborate to roll out mobile technology or drones that help smallholders make better, more informed decisions, everyone can learn from this, including those of us based in Europe.
And these partnerships, which result in products like the CLIMARK weather dashboard for pastoralists in East Africa, can provide valuable insights into how to increase their reach and support yet more farmers.
Investment in climate resilience, then, is not just a social venture but a sound business case because of the shared value. Progressive businesses and markets recognize that climate risks are “shared imperatives”, which they can only tackle together with those who also face them.
So, it is encouraging to see the EU recognize the importance of supporting institutions like CTA and other initiatives such as Horizon2020, EDG11 and the EUTF working to scale up climate-smart solutions.
Africa’s prosperity under new and extreme environmental conditions is so materially important to Europe that the EU must continue to invest in innovative, mutually beneficial and sustainable ways to address our shared climate risks to unlock value for all involved.
About the author: Oluyede Ajayi is Senior Programme Coordinator for Agriculture and Climate Change at the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA).
But it’s difficult to think about value when we have no buoy for understanding it outside our traditional lenses: for example, our time, our job, and what others tell us they are worth in cash. This, largely, is the world’s paradigm for value so far. But understanding what value really means changes everything—and will be at the center of the decentralized revolution in global coordination that will unfold over the next decade. So, where do we begin?
Let’s start with gold.
Gold is an inherent value. When backing a market, gold allows us to grow a balanced economy well into the trillions. But why does it allow for massive stable markets to form around it? It is gold's permanence that creates stability. We understand that gold will always have value, because it is inherent in all of us, not just in one part of the world, but everywhere, not just today, but tomorrow and for the long haul.
In the 1930s when the gold standard was removed, we learned that the U.S. dollar didn’t need gold to back its economy to flourish. We learned that it was just a symbol for U.S. citizens to decentralize their coordination around the United States economy.
It turns out, common agreement is a philosophy for building shared economy.
And so it seems inherent value is a marker for us to begin exploring what the future could look like—a future beyond gold and the existing realm of credit. And so what else has inherent value? Is education as valuable as gold? What about healthcare? What about a vote that can’t be tampered with? What about an ID that can’t be stolen or erased? What about access to nutrition or clean water? You will find value everywhere you look.
It turns out, we’ve already done the legwork necessary to uncover the most elemental inherent values: The Sustainable Development Goals are commitments grown out of the drive to bring to life basic tenets of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights—the closest possible social contract we have to a global, common agreement.
We’ve already agreed.
Our agreements are grounded in deep value centers that are globally shared, but undervalued and unfulfilled. The reason for this is our inability to quantify intangible value. All of these rich, inherent values are still nebulous and fragmented in implementation—largely existing as ideals and blueprints for deep, globally shared common agreement. That is, we all agree education, health, and equality have value, but we lack common units for understanding who and who is not contributing value—leaving us to fumble in our own, uncoordinated siloes as we chase the phantoms of impact. In essence, we lack common currencies for our common agreements.
Now we find ourselves at the nexus of the real paradigm of Blockchain, allowing us to fuse economics with inherent value by proving the participation of some great human effort, then quantifying the impact of that effort in unforgeable and decentralized ledgers. It allows us to build economic models for tomorrow, that create wholly new markets and economies for and around each of the richest of human endeavors.
In late 2017 at the height of the Bitcoin bubble, without individual coordination, planning, or the help of institutions, almost $1 trillion was infused into blockchain markets. This is remarkable, and the revolution has only just begun. When you realize that Blockchain is in a similar stage of development as the internet pre-AOL, you will see a glimpse of the global transformation to come.
Only twice in the information age have we had such a paradigm shift in global infrastructure reform—the computer and the internet. While the computer taught us how to store and process data, the Internet built off that ability and furthered the conversation by teaching us how to transfer that information. Blockchain takes another massive step forward—it builds off the internet, adding to the story of information storage and transfer—but, it teaches us a new, priceless and not yet understood skill: how to transfer value.
This third wave kicked off with a rough start—as happens with the birth of new technologies and their corresponding liberties. Blockchain has, thus far, been totally unregulated. Many, doubtless, have taken advantage. A young child, stretching their arms for the first couple times might knock over a cookie jar or two. Eventually, however, they learn to use their faculties—for evil or for good. As such, while it’s wise to be skeptical at this phase in blockchain’s evolution, it’s important not to be blind to its remarkable implications in a post-regulated world, so that we may wield its faculties like a surgeon’s scalpel—not for evil or snake-oil sales, but for the creation of more good, for the flourishing of commonwealth.
But what of the volatility in blockchain markets? People agree Bitcoin has value, but they don’t understand why they are in agreement, and so cryptomarkets fluctuate violently. Stable blockchain economies will require new symbolic gold standards that clearly articulate why someone would agree to support each market, to anchor common agreement with stability. The more globally shared these new value standards, the better.
Is education more valuable than gold? What about healthcare or nutrition or clean water?
We set out in 2018 to prove a hypothesis—we believe that if you back a cryptocurrency economy with a globally agreed upon inherent value like education, you can solve for volatility and stabilize a mature long lasting cryptomarket that awards everyone who adds value to that market in a decentralized way without the friction of individual partnerships.
What if education was a new gold standard?
And what if this new Learning Economy had protocols to award everyone who is helping to steward the growth of global education?
Education is a mountain. Everyone takes a different path to the top. Blockchain allows us to measure all of those unique learning pathways, online and in classrooms, into immutable blockchain Learning Ledgers.
By quantifying the true value of education, a whole economy can be built around it to pay students to learn, educators to create substantive courses, and stewards to help the Learning Economy grow. It was designed to provide a decentralized way for everyone adding value to global education to coordinate around the commonwealth without the friction of individual partnerships. Imagine the same for healthcare, nutrition, and our environment?
Imagine a world where we can pay refugees to learn languages as they find themselves in foreign lands, a world where we can pay those laid off by the tide of automation to retrain themselves for the new economy, a world where we can pay the next generation to prepare themselves for the unsolved problems of tomorrow.
Imagine new commonwealth economies that alleviate the global burdens of poverty, disease, hunger, inequality, ignorance, toxic water, and joblessness. Commonwealths that orbit inherent values, upheld by immutable blockchain protocols that reward anyone in the ecosystem stewarding the economy—whether that means feeding the hungry, providing aid for the global poor, delivering mosquito nets in malaria-ridden areas, or developing transformative technologies that can provide a Harvard-class education to anyone in the world willing to learn.
These worlds are not out of reach—we are only now opening our eyes to the horizons of blockchain, decentralized coordination, and new gold standards. Even though coordination is the last of the seventeen sustainable development goals, when solved, its tide will lift for the rest—a much-needed rocket fuel for global prosperity.
“Let us raise a standard to which the wise and the honest can repair.” —George Washington