LUSAKA, Zambia (AP) — Vice President Kamala Harris on Saturday traveled down a dirt road to tour a farm outside Zambia's capital that's using new techniques and technology to boost its vegetable crop as she highlighted ways to secure food supplies in an age of global warming.
"It's an example of what can be done around the world," she said after walking past rows of peppers and inspecting a drip irrigation system.
Unlike in the United States, where conversations about climate change usually revolve around replacing fossil fuels with clean energy, the focus in Africa is on expanding access to food. Rising prices stemming from the Russian invasion of Ukraine have been damaging to poor countries, and global warming is expected to bring more challenges in the coming years.
Hunger can also create instability, leading to migration and conflict.
"The connection between these issues is quite clear," Harris said.
She is pushing for $7 billion in private-sector investments, mostly to boost conservation and improve food production, to help Africa prepare for the effects of climate change. Her announcement about that goal came as she wrapped up her weeklong visit to Africa, which included earlier stops in Ghana and Tanzania. The trip was intended to advance U.S. efforts to make inroads in a part of the world where China's influence runs deep.
It's the biggest-ticket item that Harris has announced, but more work will be needed to follow through.
For example, African Parks, a nonprofit group, has committed to raise $1.25 billion over the next seven years in order to expand its conservation program. Another organization, One Acre Fund, plans to raise $100 million to plant 1 billion trees by the end of the decade.
The politics of climate change are complicated in Africa, which has contributed far less to overall greenhouse gas emissions than richer corners of the world such as the United States. According to the International Energy Agency, 43% of Africans didn't have access to electricity in 2021, and recent outages have caused frustration.
In Ghana, Harris was questioned at a news conference about how the West can demand that Africa go green and forgo using its natural resources. She also was pressed on whether wealthy nations would supply $100 billion annually to help poor countries cope with climate change, a commitment made under the Paris climate accord.
Harris said it is "critically important that, as global leaders, we all speak truth about the disparities that exist in terms of cause and effect and that we address those disparities." She said there were opportunities in the "clean energy economy" that could help generate growth in Africa.
As for the money, President Joe Biden has requested $11 billion in his proposed budget to meet its international commitments.
"We are waiting for Congress to do its work," Harris said.