EAC closes climate unit over funding

Saturday February 6 2016


The East African Community has closed its climate unit after donors pulled the plug on its funding.

The unit was supposed to implement a programme helping smallholder farmers in East and Southern Africa adapt to climate change and mitigate its effects.

The money was being provided by the European Union Commission, the Norwegian government and the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DfID).

The unit was closed on January 20.

The programme was to be implemented by three regional bodies — the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa), the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) and the EAC.

Mweusi Karake, spokesperson of the climate change programme at Comesa, said the $20 million programme aimed to support farmers practising climate-smart agriculture.

National policies

The three regional bodies were also supposed to use the money to help member countries develop national climate change policies, as well as negotiate a better deal at the just concluded climate talks in Paris.

Achilles Byaruhanga executive director of NatureUganda, said the goal of supporting member states to negotiate a better deal at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris had been achieved.

Mr Byaruhanga said developed countries took responsibility for their role in polluting the environment and committed to a $100 billion fund to mitigate the effects of climate change.

He added that previous protocols did not have monetary commitments from developed countries.  

The three economic blocs failed to use the $20 million given to them, with documents available to The EastAfrican showing that implementation of the programme, which should have started in 2010, was launched in December 2011.

The three were supposed to share the $20 million fund, with Comesa taking 48 per cent of the money, while SADC was to take 35 per cent. The EAC was to get 17 per cent. 

SADC only used 33 per cent of its $7 million, while the EAC only used 36 per cent of its $3.4 million.   

A source at the EAC said failure to implement the project was due to delays in recruiting staff and the donor funds were not absorbed. After that, the donors refused to provide more money. This forced Comesa to end the programme without any extensions. 

Documents available to The EastAfrican show that the EAC and SADC hired staff in 2014.

A brief on the programme, prepared by Comesa, shows that without staff, the regional bodies failed to absorb the funds, which contributed to donors pulling the plug on the project.

DfID froze funding in November 2013, while the Norwegian government did not carry forward the $4.5 million it had promised.

Lack of funding took its toll in 2015, as the three economic blocs had budget deficits that year.