The East African Community (EAC) Heads of State are set to convene for their 23rd Ordinary Summit in Arusha, Tanzania, on November 24, under the theme “Accelerating Economic Recovery through Climate Action and Enhancing Food Security for Improved Livelihoods.” Experts in agriculture and environment sectors have told The New Times that the theme is relevant given the rise in food insecurity and climate change-induced shocks. The summit will be preceded by a High-Level Forum on Climate Change, Food Security, and Environmental Sustainability on November 23, according to the EAC Secretariat. ALSO READ: EABC discusses regional food insecurity response plan Speaking to The New Times, Françoise Uwumukiza, a Member of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA), who is also the Chairperson of the Committee on Agriculture, Tourism and Natural Resources at the same assembly, described the theme of the summit as critical, timely, and relevant, given the current climate change situation in the region. Citing EAC’s Agenda for Agriculture and Food Security, she indicated that the economies and livelihoods of citizens in East Africa are predominantly dependent on agriculture. The sector, she said, accounts for 25-40 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of EAC Partner States, overall, and is a leading employer for over 80 per cent of the population in the region. However, she pointed out that global factors such as the ongoing climate change in Africa, the Russia-Ukraine conflict, and soaring food prices, have caused devastating effects across the globe, adding that hunger is hitting great swathes of Africa particularly hard, impacting on the right to adequate food. As of 2022, 282 million people in Africa were undernourished — up from 278 million people in 2021 — while 30 per cent of the continent’s children (or about 63 million children) were stunted, shows the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2023 report published by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Uwumukiza said the intensifying severe droughts, floods, and extreme weather events associated with climatic variability are putting more pressure on production and availability in the EAC region, which relies on rain-fed agriculture – as irrigation is very limited. This implies that agricultural production, food security, and smallholder farmers’ livelihoods are highly vulnerable to climate change, she said. ALSO READ: EAC warned of climate change effects Information from EAC Secretariat indicates that important common constraints to achieving food and nutrition security in the region are diverse. They include high post-harvest losses (averaging 30-40 per cent), low adoption of high-yielding and pest-resistant/tolerant varieties/breeds, and poor access to inputs; as well as negative environmental and climate change impacts. The Coordinator of Rwanda Climate Change and Development Network (RCCDN), Faustin Vuningoma, told The New Times that it is clear that climate change has significantly impacted the region, leading to droughts, floods, and other extreme weather events that have negatively affected food security and livelihoods. All East African countries, he observed, have suffered catastrophic climate change-induced disasters that have claimed lives, destroyed infrastructure and crops as well as affected livestock. What should be done? To address current challenges, Uwumukiza recommended actions including that countries (EAC Partner States) should honour their commitments to Maputo and Malabo Declarations to allocate at least 10 per cent of their public expenditures to agriculture and avail further support to farmers. ALSO READ: EAC countries challenged on meeting agric targets She also made a recommendation to EAC Partner States to implement their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) – under the Paris Agreement – to mitigate climate change. The summit should approve EALA Private Members bills that are supporting food systems transformation, and achieve inclusion to make sure no one is left behind [in terms of access to adequate and nutritious food]. For Vuningoma, accelerating economic recovery through climate action and enhancing food security is highly relevant to the current state of climate change and food security in the East African Community. “By addressing the root causes of climate change and working towards sustainable agricultural practices, the region can improve food security, enhance economic growth, and mitigate the impacts of climate change on human livelihoods,” he said. According to Evariste Ndayishimiye, President of Burundi, and Chairperson of the Summit of EAC Heads of State, “it’s upon us to invest in climate-smart agriculture and embrace sustainable environmental practices for the prosperity of our region.” EAC Secretary General, Peter Mutuku Mathuki, said “the forum is set to foster collaboration among EAC Partner States, regional bodies, and international partners for climate resilience, food security, and environmental sustainability.” EAC counts seven Partner States, namely Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, South Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (the newest member as it became a full member of the regional bloc on July 11, 2022).