Mobile for Development at COP26

In the beginning of November this year, the world leaders came together for COP26 in Glasgow to accelerate climate action across the globe. Mobile and digital services form an important part of the solution. In this blog, we highlight how GSMA Mobile for Development (M4D) collaborated with our donors and partners at COP26 to share how mobile technology, connected devices and other digital tools have, and will continue, to contribute towards climate action.

Science and innovation for climate resilience and adaptation

On Tuesday 9 November, the Adaptation Research Alliance (ARA) formally launched and celebrated their global commitments to adaptation research for impact. The ARA is a global, collaborative effort to increase investment and opportunities for action research to develop effective adaptation solutions. Through diverse stakeholder partnerships and collaborations between funders, researchers and actors that make up the ARA membership, solutions that have tangible effects on people’s everyday lives will be co-created, innovated and found.

As a member of the ARA, M4D along with our donors – the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), announced the opening of the GSMA Innovation Fund for Climate Resilience and Adaptation. The objective of this Fund is to help accelerate the testing, adoption and scalability of digital innovations that enable the world’s most vulnerable populations to adapt to, anticipate and absorb the negative impacts of climate change. The applications are open until 9 January 2022.

Agriculture and food systems are key to the climate agenda

Glasgow confirmed that agriculture and food systems are a major priority for the climate agenda. Smallholder agriculture, in particular, is highly vulnerable to climate change. Growth in global yields could decline by as much as 30 per cent by 2050, driving up food prices and exposing millions more to food insecurity and hunger. Driving transformation in the agricultural sector in low-and middle-income countries (LMICs), including the use of digital agriculture solutions, will be key for protecting nature and strengthening adaptation and resilience, but also for reducing emissions.  

As allies to the Global Action Agenda for Innovation in Agriculture, co-chaired by FCDO and CCAFS, CGIAR’s Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security, M4D works to invest in climate-resilient technologies and showcase successful business models for digital agriculture. COP26 offered a platform to galvanise interest on the Global Action Agenda.

Two hot topics were the need to drive investment in agricultural innovation, and the challenge of bridging the divide between science, policy, and practice, with a view to ensure that technology innovation is underpinned by robust science yet actionable and scalable.

Driving investment in agricultural transformation

The need to catalyse investment in agricultural transformation was central to the discussion at the COP26 Resilience Hub, where M4D co-hosted a session with the World Bank and the UK Research and Innovation on the role of digital technology to strengthen adaptation and resilience in African agricultural and food systems. Between $50-70 billion is spent on agricultural innovation every year in LMICs. But less than seven per cent of that expenditure seeks to improve the environment or limit climate change and its impacts.

At the session, Acumen Resilient Agriculture Fund (ARAF), a $58 million impact fund that aims to build the climate resilience of smallholder farmers, highlighted the need for a concerted effort and close public-private collaboration to scale innovations, including digital agriculture solutions, and address some of the most pressing challenges faced by Africa’s smallholder farmers. This is the direction taken by the Global Action Agenda, which seeks to capitalise on COP26 to foster collaborations and investment in resilient agricultural and food systems.

Bridging the gap between science, policy and practice

Bridging science, policy, and practice in agricultural transformation was a major theme at the COP26 EU-side events. M4D participated in a session on digital climate advisory services (DCAS) that integrate climate information into agricultural decision-making. DCAS are a core component of agricultural transformation, as they can provide crucial information to help smallholder farmers strengthen their climate resilience.

Taking stock of the Blueprint for Climate Informed Digital Advisory Services led by the World Resources Institute, the session highlighted the need for $7 billion to build the resilience of an additional 300 million smallholder farmers via DCAS. M4D, through its AgriTech programme, is supporting the work of the Blueprint by connecting DCAS innovations to users and investors, as part of its engagement in the Digital Agri Hub, an initiative led by Wageningen University to establish a global knowledge and data platform to track and monitor digital agriculture solutions.

If you would like to hear more about how GSMA Mobile for Development is driving digital innovation to create a low-carbon and climate resilient future please visit our central Climate Hub.

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