Durban Growth Series Day 2 

By Thomas Kerr* in Durban

We started day two of the Durban Growth Series by turning from energy to agriculture.  The session on climate and agriculture for green growth featured a diverse set of voices from the agriculture community, including national and state governments, agriculture companies, consumer products companies, information technology solution providers, financiers, non-governmental organizations and farmers.  The challenge is to meet the world’s growing food security needs by developing new agricultural “green growth” corridors that offer profitable investment opportunities and create new jobs, while at the same time reducing environmental impact and preparing the sector to be resilient to climate change impacts.

To focus the discussion, we explored one case study:  the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania (SAGCOT), an innovative public-private partnership that was developed by President Kikwete after he placed agriculture at the top of the country’s growth agenda.  Salum Shamte, Vice President of the Southern African Confederation of Agricultural Unions, and a farmer himself, started out the session testifying that climate change is being felt every day in Southern Africa, citing recent extreme droughts that were followed by massive floods.  Wearing a pin that said “No agriculture, No deal,” Mr Shamte strongly emphasized the need for the climate change talks to address adaptation and the needs of farmers, and highlighted SAGCOT as an excellent example of the sort of bottom-up public/private partnership that was needed.  Other participants noted that there has been a lag in green growth in the agricultural space, and emphasized the need for climate-smart agriculture as a profitable business opportunity but also sustainable and economically viable.

Corporate voices added intriguing partnership opportunities, including from the IT and insurance industries, who are developing the Planetary Skin Institute, which will track global land use trends and impacts across the planet’s surface real-time, providing real data and weather risk insurance products that can help farmers to manage and prepare for climate change impacts such as floods and oncoming droughts. These global approaches can be improved and linked to the situation on the ground by using smartphones with cameras to collect data that show farm conditions, and target investment opportunities.

Finally, donor governments were inspired by this new approach to agriculture-driven green growth, and asked for more examples like SAGCOT, as well as a way to capture best practices in shaping these partnerships between business, farmers and government.  The group agreed to pursue this idea, with an eye toward the oncoming Rio Plus 20 event in June 2012, which offered a platform for taking SAGCOT and similar partnerships to scale in many more countries around the world.

Water and Adaptation:  National plans to meet water needs for economic growth

On Monday afternoon, the Durban Growth Series turned to its final session of discussions by exploring examples of country partnerships that include coalitions of private/expert organizations supporting governments to develop and take forward national water sector transformation strategies to plan and use water resources more efficiently, adapting to the impacts of climate change and meeting their economic growth ambitions. The session was kicked off by Ms Nandi Mayathula-Khoza of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development of Gauteng Province in South Africa. She testified that without water, there is no economic growth, and highlighted recent analysis by the Water Resources Group that estimates a possible 3.3 billion cubic meter – or 17% – deficit of water resources for South Afirca by 2030. There was a critical need for enhanced public/private partnerships, with the private sector building up the public capacity.

UNFCCCMexico’s national water commission, Conagua, was also in attendance, and showcased their success in integrating sustainable water resource development and adaptation into national economic planning, citing the Mexican 2030 Water Agenda as a good example. These plans provide blueprints for national development with investible business plans for the private sector. The World Bank group added its voice, announcing the imminent global launch of the Water Resources Group (WRG) hosted by the World Bank Group, through the International Finance Corporation, an entity designed to help governments develop public/private partnerships for sustainable water resource planning and development.

These discussions set the stage for an important announcement by the South African Department of Water Affairs (DWA) of South Africa. The South Africa Strategic Water Partners Network (SWPN), launched at this session, is a joint effort by the public and private sector, with the assistance of the World Economic Forum and the WRG that will shape and test concepts for national water development in South Africa and design new governance processes aimed at identifying and addressing water gaps in the country. The SWPN has already formed working groups to address water use efficiency and leakage reduction, supply chain/agriculture partnerships and wastewater effluent partnerships, and will identify projects, best practices and recommend strategies to replicate and scale up successful approaches. The public/private expert group that oversees these activities is chaired by the Director General of the DWA and South African Breweries has been nominated as the industry co-chair. Other key partners include Anglo American, Coca-Cola, Development Bank of Southern Africa, Eskom, Nestle,Sasol and the NEPAD Business Foundation.

Read: Durbn Growth Series day one. Watch: Thomas Kerr on the COP17.

*Thomas Kerr is a Director at the World Economic Forum and Head of Climate Change Initiatives. He is in Durban South Africa hosting the Durban Growth Series as part of the COP17.