Remarks by Vice President Harris on Increasing Climate Resilience, Adaptation, and Mitigation Across Africa
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you, Bruno. I really appreciate the name “Panuka” and that it is about “be clever,” because, really, isn’t that at the heart of what we want people to do? Which is to use their imagination, use your vision, and be encouraged to use it in a way that will inspire. And we’ll do what we call “innovate” — create new things, see what is possible, and then go and get it. And that’s what the leaders here are doing.
And I, first of all, want to congratulate all of the men and women who are doing this work. Thank you for the time you’ve taken with me to show me the work that you are doing. And it is really quite impressive. I plan on talking about you all around the world.
So, as Bruno has said, the impact of the climate crisis is unmistakable and, without any question in my mind, poses an existential threat to our entire planet.
But we also know that there are solutions at hand. The relevance of the topic as a global priority, as it relates to this continent, also includes the fact that — that the continent of Africa and the nations of Africa really are some of the lowest emitters in terms of greenhouse gas emissions but are paying some of the highest costs.
So when I think about the work that is happening here — Bruno, the work you are doing here at Panuka — it is not only a model of innovation and inspired by, as you said, what we must do to be clever, but it is also an example of work that should happen around the country to reduce greenhouse gas emissions around the world to do the same.
In particular, the harm to the continent of Africa — I’ll just talk about three countries in particular, as an example.
In — last year alone, in Somalia, which has a population — for the American journalists here — about the size of New York, 43,000 people died due to drought last year alone.
In Malawi, which is also about the size of New York in terms of the population, to- — Tropical Cyclone Freddie caused over 500 deaths.
In Nigeria, which as a country is about two thirds of the population of the United States, more than 1.4 million people were displaced due to historic flooding.
So these are just some examples of the proportion of harm that is being experienced on this continent and as an example of what is happening around the world that must be addressed with creative solutions.
So this trip, you are correct, Bruno, has been about highlighting innovation, highlighting the ingenuity that exists on this continent that is benefiting the world and can be a model, and particular about smart farming, smart agriculture.
You talk about being climate-proof, which is — we talk sometimes about weather-proof; Bruno talks about climate-proof, which is, in essence, what we refer to as resilience, what we must do to adapt to these changing climate conditions.
And so the work here is an example of what we want to encourage more.
To that end, the trip has been about what we can do to cultivate and grow public-private partnerships, how the United States government can work with African leaders, African corporations, U.S. corporations, nonprofits, philanthropists to bring resources together to combine those resources, to uplift and grow these kinds of models of innovation in a way that will spur and encourage this kind of work across this continent and across the globe.
This work, then, that we are doing with the private sector, as I announced yesterday, will — because of the work that I’ve done to help generate more than $7 billion in private sector commitments, will support climate resilience, adaptation, and mitigation. This includes commitments to support climate-smart agriculture; to increase access to financing and insurance, which is a very big deal to more, on this continent, than 116 million farmers, which is about half of the farmers on the continent.
And let’s think of the benefits of this type of approach. For example, when we think about access to insurance for small farmers, this will help farmers to recover financially after a difficult season or a catastrophic event.
As for the role specifically of the United States government, the United States will continue to support and expand this work. Some examples of the work we are doing to that end, here on the continent, includes helping to improve climate modeling, weather forecast, and to build new weather stations.
We, through that work, know that we can then help farmers decide where to plant their crops, when to plant their crops, how to predict the upcoming growing season in a way they plant crops that are resilient to or can adapt to whatever that clai- — climate might be predicted to be. In this way, we can also help communities prepare for storms, prote- — prepare for drought, prepare for floods.
And this work is directly, of course, connected to the issue of food security, which is a big issue for the continent and for the globe.
We know that climate crises drive disruptions to food supplies on the African continent and around the world. Extreme weather causes water scarcity and food insecurity.
And it’s a simple point, which is: If people don’t have food to eat where they live, they are likely to leave that place and often move in large numbers to a place that may not speak the same language or hold the same customs or culture, which invariably might lead to conflict.
So the connection between these issues is quite clear. When we think about the extreme climate variables that we have been experiencing, when we think about the need to invest in innovation and ingenuity, when we think about the jobs that it will create and the people that will be uplifted, the connection to food security and the connection to a reduction potentially of conflict around the globe.
So today’s farm visit is to highlight all of that and to use as the examples, Bruno, of what you are doing here as models, again, for what can be done elsewhere.
For example, a lot of what you’re doing here is about high tech, using cellphone apps to track plant health, and using solar energy to power buildings and irrigation systems. Bruno showed me on his phone the app that he has been using over the last two years so that he can use the camera on his phone to take a picture of the leaf of a plant, and the app will then tell him, because of AI and what it has been programmed to do, “Oh, there are certain kinds of infestation that are hurting that plant; that plant needs a certain kind of food to address whatever might be harming it; that plant needs less water, more water, less sun, less sun.”
Think about the application of technology that can grow the productivity of farms, which increases the food supply in any particular area.
So what is so exciting about this is the intersection between technology, innovation, how we think of water policy.
Bruno has shown me what you are doing around water conservation, building trenches so that they can then feed, when the rains do come, into the reservoir you built here to anticipate what might be future drought.
This is exciting, innovative work that is a model, again, for what we should be doing in many places.
And I must also mention, as you have, Lupiya. Where are our Lupiya founders? There you are.
So, Lupiya is a microfinance company whose founders were small-business owners, who went into hard times with another type of business and then thought about what they could do that was innovative and new and helpful to their community, and came up with the idea to provide microfinancing to farmers.
And through the work that they have been doing, farms such as this have benefited. And I’m told that you will be expanding beyond Zambia to do the work of targeting small farmers, micro agriculture, uplifting women. We talk particularly about that. Here in Zambia, we know almost 80 percent of the farmers are women. And by providing microfinance — which is essentially access to capital — to help women start a farm, grow a farm, and increase not only the productivity in terms of the food production piece of it, but also increase the economic status of their families in their communities.
So all of this is coming together, and it is very exciting. And again, this farm is a model of the integration and intersection between all of those approaches.
So I want to thank everyone here for the work that you are doing. I look forward to talking about it everywhere I go. And congratulations for your hard work and your success.
Thank you all. (Applause.) Thank you.