Azerbaijan's role in COP29 signals progress toward greener future - CGIAR

Green Economy Materials 10 April 2024 14:47 (UTC +04:00)
Azerbaijan's role in COP29 signals progress toward greener future - CGIAR

BAKU, Azerbaijan, April 10. COP29, under Azerbaijan's leadership, will become a significant milestone towards a greener, smarter, and brighter future for all, Aly Abousabaa, Regional Director for Central and West Asia and North Africa of CGIAR, said in an interview with the Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences, Trend reports.

Aly Abousabaa, Regional Director of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research Center (CGIAR) for Central and West Asia and North Africa, and Director General of the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) visited Baku ahead of the 29th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP), to be held in Azerbaijan this November.

Mr. Abousabaa, welcome to Azerbaijan. We are thrilled to see you in our country. First of all, we would like you to inform us about the main objective of your visit to Azerbaijan.

Thank you for your hospitality and keen interest in our work. I am here to discuss with our key Azerbaijan partners how CGIAR can support the country's COP29 objectives. CGIAR is a global network of 13 research centers with over 9000 experts in research-for-development (R4D). We focus on advancing global agricultural innovation to build sustainable food, land, and water systems to drive rural development and resilient livelihoods. As CGIAR's Regional Director for Central and Western Asia and North Africa (CWANA), I will be advocating for prioritizing the sustainable transformation of food, land, and water systems globally at COP29, where leaders will convene in November 2024 to make crucial decisions that will impact the lives of hundreds of millions of farmers and their communities.

During my visit, I discussed such matters with Azerbaijan's Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Majnun Mammadov, and Mr. Orkhan Zeynalov, Deputy Chief Negotiator at COP29, and with partner organizations such as FAO and the Genetic Resources Institute in Baku. CGIAR, through 13 global research centers like ICARDA, is dedicated to supporting Azerbaijan's government's success in COP29 by working closely with key stakeholders, National Agricultural Research Institutes, and the farming communities themselves.

Nowadays, natural resource management and climate change projections concern everyone. What measures is CGIAR taking in this direction?

Our agri-science and development experts closely monitor global warming predictions, and I have to say that we are very alarmed. Rising temperatures, even by half a degree, will amplify extreme weather events, posing significant challenges to agricultural production and increasing the likelihood of malnutrition, famine, and other agri-related catastrophes. This concern drives CGIAR's collective efforts to raise awareness of these existential challenges at COP29 so that there is an increased global understanding of the role that food, land, and water systems transformation can play in reducing and mitigating the impacts of an accelerating climate crisis.

In Central Asia, the Caucasus, and beyond, CGIAR research centers prioritize improved agricultural systems. This includes promoting improved land, soil, and water management practices, cultivating climate-smart crops, and conserving biodiversity. We support vulnerable small-scale producers in adapting to climate change by introducing heat or pest-resistant high-yielding crop varieties and work towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions from food systems themselves. In the hot and arid CWANA region, more efficient irrigation and water management practices will play a vital role in enhancing agricultural production despite the challenges posed by climate change.

Scientists from Azerbaijan and ICARDA are also collaborating on genome sequencing, enhancing our understanding of genome evolution. This collaboration strengthens the diversity, quality, and adaptability of local varieties, and it supports the development of breeding programs focused on developing new, resilient crop varieties.

One CGIAR major project currently being co-led by ICARDA is the "Fragility to Resilience initiative (F2R)," which focuses on building resilient agri-food systems capable of withstanding climate change shocks, enables farmers to generate economic opportunities and improves incomes and livelihoods for rural communities across the region. We also recognize the unique challenges that communities face, as the F2R Initiative relates to food production in a region that suffers from extreme droughts, heat waves, and soil salinity. Accordingly, several CGIAR centers led by ICARDA have developed the concept of Integrated Desert Farming which aims to transform deserts into cultivable land and food production centers.

What research is being conducted worldwide on agricultural development in the context of globalization and digital transformation?

The digital age has revolutionized agricultural research for development. ICARDA is pioneering the use of tools and technologies like Earth Observation Systems, Open Access platforms, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Information and Communication Technologies, as well as Cloud Computing, which provide our scientists with advanced capabilities for data collection, analysis, and management.

For instance, ICARDA scientists have developed a digital tool that is benefiting Ethiopian goat and sheep breeders in Community-Based Breeding Programs (CBBPs), enabling more efficient data collection to improve the selection of best breeds and also increased access to new market opportunities. We are now expanding the successful pilot project to Jordan, Tunisia, and Mali. Similarly, in India, ICARDA's GeoAgro-iKrishi app and dashboard provide real-time farming advice to smallholder farmers on weather forecasts, optimal seeding times, early warning alerts about potential disease outbreaks, soil salinity/quality, etc. Thanks to this high- tech precision farming tool, farmers can improve resource management, fine-tune irrigation practices, optimize fertilization, and enhance overall productivity.

Artificial Intelligence (AI), in particular, holds immense potential for research in disease detection, weather prediction, and automated harvesting research. Using technologies such as drones and data analysis, AI optimizes the use of resources like water and fertilizer, leading to improved crop yields. I believe that the potential of AI will continue to grow, and our scientists will stay at the cutting edge of global advancements in the field. This is crucial to keep pace with such advancements and leverage them more effectively. However, it is also essential that we train our partners' experts in these emerging technologies to develop a universal understanding and allow them to more easily translate these advancements into impact on the ground for farming communities.

We would like you to share your thoughts on the COP29 event in Azerbaijan. What are the main expectations from this event?

COP29 in Azerbaijan holds great significance as a platform for global cooperation and decision-making to limit, adapt to, or even reverse the impact of global warming and mobilize financing for these activities. Outcomes from COP29 not only have the ability to influence and advance the goals of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Paris Agreement to keep global temperature increases lower than 2oC, but they will also set the stage for a successful COP30 in Brazil.

My expectations for COP29 are exceptionally high, as I anticipate a strong focus on bolstering sustainable agriculture and resilient food systems, improving water management, and enhancing conservation agriculture and biodiversity protection. Building upon the foundation set by the COP28 Declaration on Food and Agriculture, COP29 has the potential to drive meaningful progress in addressing these pressing challenges and bringing about game-changing decisions for resilient food systems, which we urgently need in the dry areas such as Central Asia, North Africa, and the Middle East.

I have now participated in some 16 COPs, and I can confidently affirm that Azerbaijan, with its ongoing preparations, strong team, well-established infrastructure, and exceptional commitment to hosting this global high-level event, is well-positioned to make COP29 a great success.

Let us remind you that by the Decree of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, 2024 was declared in our country as the "Year of Solidarity of the Green World." We would like your recommendations on how to overcome challenges for a "green" world.

Azerbaijan's declaration of 2024 as the "Green World Solidarity Year" is a commendable initiative. It reflects the country's strong commitment to green growth and its proactive approach to tackling global challenges. To achieve this goal, robust international collaboration will be vital. Sharing knowledge and green technologies with other nations will play a crucial role in driving lasting environmental progress and impact. Moreover, it's essential to enhance capacity building that will enable the responsible use of natural resources while simultaneously promoting eco-friendly practices for long-term success.

ICARDA and CGIAR are fully prepared to contribute to Azerbaijan's growth by working with our partners both in and outside of government to strongly reestablish our research programs, initiating joint projects, and leveraging CGIAR's global expertise on agri-resilience. Together, we can foster productive partnerships and scale up innovations that will transform farming communities. I wholeheartedly wish Azerbaijan great success in hosting COP29 and believe that this event, under Azerbaijan's leadership, will become a significant milestone towards a greener and smarter, and brighter future for all.