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Caribbean region must boost efforts to prepare for increased drought – UN report

Climate change is expected to increase the intensity and frequency of droughts in the Caribbean, so countries in the region must enhance their capabilities to deal with this and other extreme weather-related challenges to ensure food security and hunger eradication, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has said in a new report.

With irrigation use becoming more widespread in the Caribbean, countries’ fresh-water supplies will become increasingly important. Photo: FAO

With irrigation use becoming more widespread in the Caribbean, countries’ fresh-water supplies will become increasingly important. Photo: FAO

The report, Drought Characteristics and Management in the Caribbean, found that the Caribbean region faces significant challenges in terms of drought, FAO said.

“Drought ranks as the single most common cause of severe food shortages in developing countries, so this is a key issue for Caribbean food security,” said Deep Ford, FAO Regional Coordinator in the Caribbean.

The Caribbean region already experiences drought-like events every year, with low water availability often impacting on agriculture and water resources, and a significant number of bush fires, FAO noted.

The region also experiences intense dry seasons, particularly in years when El Niño climate events are present. FAO said that the impacts of this are usually offset by the next wet season, but wet seasons often end early and dry seasons last longer, with the result that annual rainfall is less than expected.

The Caribbean region accounts for seven of the world’s top 36 water-stressed countries, while one of them – Barbados – is in the top 10, according to FAO.

Impacts of drought on agriculture and food security

With droughts becoming more seasonal in nature in the Caribbean region, agriculture is the most likely sector to be impacted, with serious economic and social consequences, FAO emphasized.

his is particularly important because most of Caribbean agriculture is rainfed. With irrigation use becoming more widespread in the region, countries’ fresh-water supply will become an increasingly important resource, FAO said.

Small-scale, family farmers, are particularly vulnerable to drought – low rainfall threatens rainfed crops and low water levels result in increased production costs due to increased irrigation.

Extensive droughts also cause increased vulnerability in livestock as grazing areas change in nutritional value, with more low quality, drought tolerant species dominating during such dry spells. In addition, the potential for livestock disease outbreaks also increases, FAO said.

Drought also often results in food price increases. Expensive, desalinated water resources are becoming more important in the Caribbean, accounting for as much as 70 per cent in Antigua and Barbuda, and this can impact significantly on the ability of poor households to afford food.

Rural communities can also face a greater scarcity of drinking water during droughts. In such cases, children are at the highest risk from inadequate water supplies during drought.

New challenges posed by climate change

The most frequently occurring natural hazards in the Caribbean are climate-related, and their impacts may increase due to climate change, FAO said. The region’s vulnerability to climate related hazards is manifested in loss of life and annual economic and financial losses that result from strong winds, flooding and drought.

Between 1970 and 2000, the Caribbean region suffered direct and indirect losses estimated at between $700 million and $3.3 billion due to natural disasters associated with weather and climate events.

So far, the region has focused mainly on floods and storms, and it currently lacks effective governance, expertise, and financial resources to deal effectively with drought issues, FAO stressed.

It also has poor national coordination, policy-making, and planning in place. While many regional and national programmes have developed responses to build resilience against the impacts of drought, the report found that too many of these are still only in a drafting phase, or are poorly implemented and in need of review.

Regional frameworks provide a necessary first step

The FAO report noted that the severity of the 2009-2010 drought – the worst in more than 40 years – served as an alarm bell for the Caribbean region.

The event forced the region to consider, particularly in light of climate change projections, the need to introduce more strategic planning and management measures to avert the potential disaster that would result by end of the century from a drier Caribbean region, according to the report.

FAO stressed, however, that the most pressing need is for countries to develop strong national initiatives. According to the report, policy-making and planning related to drought is hindered by weak governance, lack of finance and poorly coordinated land management.

“These can be overcome by strong political will that encourages participation in policy and planning processes by all actors in the social strata, enabling the sustainable development of water supplies to face the upcoming challenges,” Mr. Ford said.

Credit:  UN

ACP ministers adopt roadmap to boost economies through fisheries and aquaculture management

The fourth meeting of African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) ministers in charge of fisheries and aquaculture was held in Brussels from 22 to 23 July 2015, preceded by a meeting of senior fisheries officials on 20 and 21 July.

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It provided an opportunity for the ministers to take stock of progress made in implementing the strategic action plan for fisheries and aquaculture, which was adopted in Nadi, Fiji in 2012, and to agree on the way forward to ensure the sustainability of aquatic resources with a view to wealth creation and development in ACP countries.

More than 60 ACP member states are engaged in the export of fish and aquaculture products to regional and international markets, although these countries provide only 3% share in value of the global fisheries trade, worth US$150 billion per year.

At the conclusion of their meeting, the ministers adopted a roadmap for the implementation of the strategic action plan, calling for mobilisation of adequate financial resources and close collaboration with partner institutions which provide support to ACP fisheries sector, among them the EU, FAO, IFAD, UNIDO and the World Bank, to ensure effective implementation.

Given the negative impact of climate change on the fisheries sector, the ministers called specifically on the international community to agree to outline concrete, ambitious actions to reduce the effects of climate change during the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which is scheduled to take place in Paris from 30 November to 11 December 2015.

In light of the persistence of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and piracy, the ACP ministers also urged the international community to cooperate more closely with ACP countries and to provide financial and technical support for the efforts made at the national and regional level, to curb and eradicate these two extremely serious problems.

The ministers recommended developing aquaculture, the economic development of the fisheries sector as a means for creating decent jobs, especially for youth and women, as well as the preservation of aquatic biodiversity. They agreed to implement plans for the development of aquaculture and appropriate fisheries management measures in compliance with international agreements.

The ministers also stressed the need for coherence and appropriate policies among regional economic integration organisations and regional fisheries organisations to achieve this aim.

The ministers directed the ACP Secretariat to seek technical assistance and financial support from development partners, specifically the European Union, to strengthen ACP fisheries sectors and their national health and food security agencies to enable them to comply with increasingly stringent health requirements.

The ministers also agreed that the European Union should provide support to the ACP fisheries and aquaculture sector, through appropriate measures, to cope with the erosion of preferential tariffs for ACP fish exports to EU markets, and to support the ACP Position on Fisheries subsidies negotiations in the WTO negotiations.

Credit: Caribbean News Now

New FAO guidance on how agricultural development planning can help tackle climate change

Credit: CCCCC

Credit: CCCCC

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations released a guidance document  today that calls for more to be done to capitalize on agriculture’s potential to mitigate climate change.

The organization says agriculture is directly responsible for over 10 percent of all human-caused greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. But improved farming practices offer the possibility of reducing those emissions and sequestering atmospheric carbon, while at the same time increasing the resilience of production systems, says the document, National planning for GHG mitigation in agriculture, published by FAO’s Mitigation of Climate Change in Agriculture Programme (MICCA).

Also see We’re working to improve agriculture amids a changing and variable climate

Yet progress in drawing up agricultural GHG mitigation plans — as well as in allocating financing to climate change projects in the agriculture sector — is falling short of what is needed, cautions FAO.

The document aims to help address these shortfalls by providing step-wise advice and examples of national planning for GHG mitigation in food production systems, as well as highlighting opportunities for developing countries to secure climate financing for agriculture.

Examples from existing mitigation planning processes in developing countries illustrate options for addressing key planning elements in country-specific ways, and approaches to involving smallholder farmers in the planning process are highlighted as well.

Key steps, guiding principles

Although opportunities and planning processes will vary from country to country based on local circumstances, a number of general principals hold true, FAO says.

First, mitigation actions in agriculture should be pursued within the context  supporting agricultural development and food security, with planners clarifying from the start how mitigation can contribute to national development goals.

Participatory planning and cross-sectoral cooperation will be important to the success of mitigation plans, the report adds. Farmers and other stakeholders should be involved in setting objectives, actions and targets, both to generate support for and to improve the effectiveness of planned policies.

To access international and domestic financing, plans should be very specific regarding how to assess the mitigation potential of proposed policies and measures. Sound systems for measuring the impacts of policies and reporting other performance metrics are also necessary when seeking financing for projects.

Another key step is to identify the barriers that impede adoption of mitigation practices by farmers. Many agricultural practices that can mitigate climate change are already widely known — effective policies need to identify why farmers may not be adapting them, work to remove barriers, and facilitate their wider use.

Also crucial: determining how mitigation policies and measures will be financed.

Some countries are supporting agricultural mitigation activities primarily through domestic fiscal budget lines and policies that leverage private investment, the report notes. For many countries, however, an important goal of mitigation planning is to attract international financial support, in order to match the priorities of international climate finance institutions to specific parts of domestic mitigation plans.

Source: FAO

Also see We’re working to improve agriculture amids a changing and variable climate
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