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Climate Change and Food Security Institute launched

One of Guyana’s oldest training institutions, the Critchlow Labour College (CLC), has moved to establish the Guyana Climate Change and Food Security Institute (GCCFSI) and the Centre for Agricultural and Environmental Studies (CAES) to afford Guyanese the opportunity to get involved in agriculture.

Academic Director and Head of the Institute, Bissasar Chintamanie, said on Sunday that following a review of its programmes, the CLC decided to offer more specific and relevant training for the agricultural sector – training opportunities that are demand-driven.

He said the GCCFSI would aim to provide innovative and effective scientific contributions to reduce hunger and poverty, and achieve food security.

“Using a multidisciplinary approach through teaching, the GCCFSI will conduct research and provide policy advice in cooperation with national and international development organisations and partner with higher education institutes in the developing world,” Chintamanie explained.

Academic Director and CLC Centre for Agricultural and Environmental Studies Head, Bissasar Chintamanie

According to him, the institute will also help Guyanese realise their full potential to create wealth, while contributing to environmental conservation efforts.

Starting September, the college will be offering the following courses: Certificate in Sustainable Agriculture, Certificate in Sustainable Forestry, Certificate in Fisheries and Aquaculture, Certificate in Sustainable Mining, and a Master of Science/Post-Graduate Diploma in Food Security and Climate Change.

Chintamanie said the teaching of these courses was organised in modules, ranging in number from 12 to 16. The delivery of materials will take a variety of forms, including lectures, classes, seminars and group exercises.

“Assessment is modular and involves coursework and examinations. Classes are arranged in all three counties of Guyana. The nature of the assessment is determined by the objective of each programme and the aims of the modules,” he further explained.

According to Chintamanie, the new courses will provide students with the skills and tools for developing agricultural and environmental practices, policies, and measures to address the challenges that global warming posed to agriculture, food security, and the environment worldwide.

“These courses will provide students with a detailed understanding of the principles and processes of sustainable agriculture, sustainable forestry, sustainable aquaculture, sustainable mining, and climate change, including its social and environmental impacts,” he added.

It will also equip students who already have work experience in the sectors to implement the latest research in sustainable systems thinking, and will facilitate cutting-edge careers for those who want to enter the agricultural and environmental fields.

Chintamanie told this publication that with a per capita shrinking of agricultural resources, the task would be enormous, to maintain and upgrade the skills and competencies of the local labour force in order to overcome the predicted challenges of increased production and productivity of the sector.

“The sector needs to increase its human resource capabilities in different fields through the development of skills and capacities, as well as enhanced knowledge and information exchange between the actors involved in innovation, including farmers and their organisations,” he asserted.

Agriculture remains the mainstay of the rural populations and the most dominant of the country’s economic sectors, followed by mining. It has been a major contributor to Gross Domestic Product (GDP); exports; direct and indirect employment; and rural transformation in Guyana.

It is the source of livelihood for nearly 38 per cent of the population and contributes about 20 per cent of the GDP.

Persons who wish to inquire about the courses as well as admission requirements could make contact with the CLC on 1-592-226-2483.

Credit: iNews Guyana

Central American professionals learn about farmer citizen science for climate adaptation

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Central America Training

In August and September 2016, agricultural professionals in three Central American countries, Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala, learned about an exciting methodology to involve farmers as citizen scientists.

The methodology – called ‘tricot’ as an abbreviation from ‘triadic comparisons of technologies’ – has been designed by Bioversity International with the aim of reaching a large number of farmers with participatory trials for climate adaptation.

By involving a large number of farmers working in different production environments, the tricot methodology allows scientists to collect more data and increase their understanding of climate adaptation. It also serves as a bridge between research and development practice, by putting technologies to the test directly on the farm.

The trial format is simple: each farmer tests three agricultural technologies and judges the best and worst for different aspects of performance. These data are then matched with environmental data to be analyzed. So far, we have done trials to test crop varieties, but this methodology can be used to study also other agricultural technologies.

During the course, participants learned about the theory behind the new approach and had the opportunity to do practical exercises. One of the main tools they learned about is the ClimMob platform, which provides digital support throughout the testing process. ClimMob supports trial design, data collection with mobile phones, and data analysis and report creation.

Participants – 79 professionals representing 33 organizations including farmer organizations, development NGOs, agricultural research institutes and universities – did an example trial, designed their own project and discussed how this new methodology fits into new and ongoing activities.

In Nicaragua, participants decided to go for a larger trial than originally planned, now that they fully understood the methodology. In Honduras, participants discussed about how the new methodology fits in ongoing varietal testing schemes and decided to apply it to a wide range of crops. In Guatemala, the national agricultural research institute, ICTA, sent a large delegation of young researchers to learn about the new methodology. Brandon Madriz and Jacob van Etten of Bioversity International served as course instructors.

Course participants rated both the course and the platform. In each country, the course was rated as excellent. The platform, still in beta version, was rated by course participants as ‘good’ according to the widely used System Usability Score. During the course, participants provided many useful suggestions to improve the digital platform.

The course also served as the kick-off meeting of a new project on agrobiodiversity management for climate adaptation and food security, implemented by the Collaborative Program on Participatory Plant Breeding in Mesoamerica. The project, coordinated by the Guatemalan farmer organization Asocuch, is financed by the Benefit Sharing Fund of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.

The tricot methodology will be used in this project, but the course participants also identified a large number of opportunities to use the platform beyond this particular project.

This research is part of the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security and supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.

Credit: Excerpt taken from the Agriculture in the News: issues affecting Caribbean agriculture 11-17 September 2016 

Tackling climate change in the Caribbean

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Sanchez, Petite Martinique. Climate-Proofing the tiny island of Petite Martinique includes a sea revetment 140 metres long to protect critical coastal infrastructure from erosion. (Photo: TECLA  FONTENAD/IPS)

The world is still celebrating the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, the main outcome of the 21st Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Its ambitions are unprecedented: not only has the world committed to limit the increase of temperature to “well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels,” it has also agreed to pursue efforts to “limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C.”

This achievement should be celebrated, especially by Small Island Development States (SIDS), a 41-nation group—nearly half of them in the Caribbean—that has been advocating for increased ambition on climate change for nearly a quarter century.

SIDS are even more vulnerable to climate change impacts — and risk losing more. Global warming has very high associated damages and costs to families, communities and entire countries, including their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

What does this mean for the Caribbean? Climate change is recognized as one of the most serious challenges to the Caribbean. With the likelihood that climate change will exacerbate the frequency and intensity of the yearly hurricane season, comprehensive measures are needed to protect at-risk communities.

Moreover, scenarios based on moderate curbing of greenhouse gas emissions reveal that surface temperature would increase between 1.2 and 2.3 °C across the Caribbean in this century. In turn, rainfall is expected to decrease about 5 to 6 per cent. As a result, it will be the only insular region in the world to experience a decrease in water availability in the future.

The combined impact of higher temperatures and less water would likely result in longer dry periods and increased frequency of droughts, which threaten agriculture, livelihoods, sanitation and ecosystems.

Perhaps the most dangerous hazard is sea level rise. The sea level may rise up to 0.6 meters in the Caribbean by the end of the century, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This could actually flood low-lying areas, posing huge threats, particularly to the smallest islands, and impacting human settlements and infrastructure in coastal zones. It also poses serious threats to tourism, a crucial sector for Caribbean economies: up to 60 per cent of current resorts lie around the coast and these would be greatly damaged by sea level increase.

Sea level rise also risks saline water penetrating into freshwater aquifers, threatening crucial water resources for agriculture, tourism and human consumption, unless expensive treatments operations are put into place.

In light of these prospects, adapting to climate change becomes an urgent necessity for SIDS—including in the Caribbean. It is therefore not surprising that all Caribbean countries have submitted a section on adaptation within their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), which are the voluntary commitments that pave the way for the implementation of the Paris Agreement.

In their INDCs, Caribbean countries overwhelmingly highlight the conservation of water resources and the protection of coastal areas as their main worries. Most of them also consider adaptation initiatives in the economic and productive sectors, mainly agriculture, fisheries, tourism and forestry.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has been supporting Caribbean countries in their adaptation efforts for many years now, through environmental, energy-related and risk reduction projects, among others.

This week we launched a new partnership with the Government of Japan, the US$15 million Japan-Caribbean Climate Change Partnership (J-CCCP), in line with the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. The initiative will be implemented in eight Caribbean countries: Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, benefitting an estimated 200,000 women and men in 50 communities.

It will set out a roadmap to mitigate and adapt to climate change, in line with countries’ long-term strategies, helping put in practice Caribbean countries’ actions and policies to reduce greenhouse as emissions and adapt to climate change. It will also boost access to sustainable energy and help reduce fossil fuel imports and dependence, setting the region on a low-emission development path, while addressing critical balance of payments constraints.

When considering adaptation measures to the different impacts of climate change there are multiple options. Some rely on infrastructure, such as dikes to control sea level rise, but this can be particularly expensive for SIDS, where the ratio of coastal area to land mass is very high.

In this context, ecosystem-based adaptation activities are much more cost-effective, and, in countries with diverse developmental priorities and where financial resources are limited, they become an attractive alternative. This means healthy, well-functioning ecosystems to boost natural resilience to the adverse impacts of climate change, reducing people’s vulnerabilities as well.

UNDP, in partnership with national and local governments in the Caribbean, has been championing ecosystem-based adaptation and risk reduction with very rewarding results.

For example, the Government of Cuba partnered with UNDP, scientific institutes and forestry enterprises to restore mangrove forests along 84 km of the country’s southern shore to slow down saline intrusion from the sea level rise and reduce disaster risks, as the mangrove acts as a protective barrier against hurricanes.

In Grenada, in coordination with the Government and the German International Cooperation Agency, we supported the establishment of a Community Climate Change Adaptation Fund, a small grants mechanism, to provide opportunities to communities to cope with the effects of climate change and extreme weather conditions. We have engaged with local stakeholders to develop climate smart agricultural projects, and climate resilient fisheries, among other activities in the tourism and water resources sectors.

UNDP’s support is directed to balance social and economic development with environmental protection, directly benefitting communities. Our approach is necessarily aligned with the recently approved 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and its associated Sustainable Development Goals, delivering on protecting ecosystems and natural resources, promoting food security and sanitation, while also helping reduce poverty and promoting sustainable economic growth.

While there is significant potential for climate change adaptation in SIDS, it will require additional external resources, technologies and strengthening of local capacities. In UNDP we are ideally placed to continue working hand-in-hand with Caribbean countries as they implement their INDCs and find their own solutions to climate-change adaptation, while also sharing knowledge and experiences within the region and beyond.

 

Jessica Faieta is United Nations Assistant Secretary General and UNDP Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean.

 

 

Credit: Caribbean 360

Caribbean environmental experts explore climate change and public health responses

Flooding in Cuba *Photo credits: IPS News

Flooding in Cuba *Photo credits: IPS News

The Caribbean, mainly comprised of small island nations, is the world’s most tourist-dependent region, and one of the most vulnerable to the negative impacts of climate change.

Within recent times, the Region has experienced more frequent and severe storms and hurricanes, increases in mosquito-borne diseases, rises in sea level, prolonged periods of drought and salt water intrusion of coastal groundwater sources, which pose a significant threat to human health.

Recognizing the critical need to be more climate change resilient, the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) in collaboration with the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), UNEP-Caribbean Regional Coordinating Unit (UNEP CAR-RCU), and the Government of Saint Lucia, will host a Conference to address issues related to climate change and health.

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CARPHA Executive Director Dr. James Hospedales said that because Climate Change threatens traditional public health infrastructure, the focus will be on environmental health services.

Executive Director, CARPHA, Dr. C. James Hospedales explained that “climate change threatens traditional public health infrastructure. It will stress environmental health services, such as efforts to respond to severe weather events and disease outbreaks, provide assurance of drinking water safety, and implement vector control measures.

At the same time measures like alternative transport such as biking and walking and rapid mass transport can improve population health, mitigate climate change through reduced greenhouse gas emissions, improve energy security, and reduce the import bill for oil.”  He added that the Conference “will bring together government representatives, and regional and international organizations to address issues of public health, environment and socio-economic well-being.”

The meeting, which will be held at the Golden Palm Conference Centre in Saint Lucia, runs from November 18 – 20 November, 2015, and will serve as a platform for information-sharing, and also as a “think tank” for developing innovative, Caribbean-specific solutions to our environmental health and sustainable development challenges.

Agenda items include discussions on preparations for Zika Virus and recent experiences with Chikungunya; food and water security; achievements of the Caribbean Cooperation for Health III; and a Caribbean Environmental Health Officers and Partners Planning Session.

Credit: St. Lucia News Online

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

UNEP ‘Our Planet’ 2015 Focuses on SDGs

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Credit: UNEP

An integrated, universal approach to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the post-2015 development agenda is essential, according to the 2015 issue of ‘Our Planet,’ a publication from the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner discusses the importance of integration, universality, climate change mitigation, governance and accountability, and financing. He writes that linking the SDGs with climate change mitigation will help countries build energy-efficient, low-carbon infrastructure and achieve sustainable development.

In an article by Tommy Remengesau, Jr., President, Palau, he explains that healthy, productive, resilient oceans are critical to preserving and restoring the balance between humans and nature, and ensuring economic prosperity, food security, health and culture, particularly in Small Island Developing States (SIDS). Remengesau advocates for a stand-alone SDG on oceans, and says Palau’s national conservation efforts must be “amplified and augmented by work at the international level” in order to make a difference.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights should guide the elaboration of the SDGs, writes Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. He stresses that human rights, such as the rights to education, food, health and water, are about empowerment, not charity, and underscores the importance of empowering citizens to be involved in crafting and implementing the SDGs. He adds that “universality applies not just to universal application, but also to universal participation and ownership of the goals.”

UK Environmental Audit Select Committee Chair Joan Walley cautions that reducing the number of SDGs “risks relegating environmental sustainability to a side issue,” and could shatter “the carefully negotiated consensus.” She also argues for communicating the goals to the public, particularly youth.

Other articles address: the European Commission’s (EC) energy and climate framework, which will promote a low-carbon, resource-efficient economy; the UN Environment Assembly’s (UNEA) role in moving towards an integrated, universal approach to the SDGs; the role of central banks in shifting towards inclusive, environmentally sustainable development; a carbon pricing system; national accounting systems and inequalities; and chemicals and hazardous substances, among other issues.

The issue also highlights the Montreal Protocol as an “ozone success” and a model for achieving a green economy and the SDGs, achievements by UNEP’s Poverty-Environment Initiative (PEI), and the UNEP Finance Initiative’s work to align the financial system with a low-carbon, carbon resilient green economy. [Publication: Our Planet: Time for Global Action]

Credit: SIDS Policy & Practice

How do agri-food systems contribute to climate change?

Agriculture and food security are exposed to impacts and risks related to the changing climate in several ways. On the other hand, agriculture and food production activities are also responsible for part of the greenhouse gas emissions that in turn cause climate change.

According to the latest conclusions by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, agriculture, together with deforestation and other human actions that change the way land is used (codename: AFOLU, Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use), accounts for about a quarter of emissions contributing to climate change.

IPCC-WGIII-AR5-2014-emissions-by-economic-sectors-fig-TS3 - Crop
Greenhouse Gas Emissions by Economic Sectors. Fig. TS.3, IPCC AR5 WGIII, Mitigation of Climate Change, Technical Summary, 2014

GHG emissions from farming activities consist mainly of non-CO2 gases: methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) produced by bacterial decomposition processes in cropland and grassland soils and by livestock’s digestive systems.

The latest estimates released in 2014 by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization [pdf] showed that emissions from crop and livestock production and fisheries have nearly doubled over the past fifty years, from 2.7 billion tonnes CO2e in 1961 to more than 5.3 billion tonnes CO2e in 2011.

During the last ten years covered by FAO data (2001-2011) agricultural emissions increased by 14 percent (primarily in developing countries that expanded their agricultural outputs), while almost in the same years (2001-2010) net GHG emissions due to land use change and deforestation decreased by around 10 percent (due to reduced levels of deforestation and increases in the amount of atmospheric carbon removed from the atmosphere as a result of carbon sequestration in forest sinks).

The current situation, as highlighted by a recent study led by FAO and published in Global Change Biology, sees farming activities more responsible for climate pollution than deforestation. Even thought emissions from agriculture and land use change are growing at a slower rate than emissions from fossil fuels, emissions reduction achieved thanks to better forest and soil management are cancelled out by a more intensive and energy-consuming food production systems. The FAO estimated that without increased efforts to address and reduce them, GHG emissions from the sector could increase by an additional 30 percent by 2050.

In a recent study published on Nature Climate Change, scientists pointed out that “the intensification of agriculture (the Green Revolution, in which much greater crop yield per unit area was achieved by hybridization, irrigation and fertilization) during the past five decades is a driver of changes in the seasonal characteristics of the global carbon cycle”.

As shown in the graph below, livestock-related emissions from enteric fermentation and manure contributed nearly two-thirds of the total GHG agricultural emissions produced in the last years, with synthetic fertilizers and rice cultivation being the other major sources.

 According to another report by FAO (“Tackling climate change through livestock”, accessible here in pdf), the livestock sector is estimated to emit 7.1 billion tonnes CO2-eq per year, with beef and cattle milk production accounting for the majority of the sector’s emissions (41 and 19 percent respectively).

Emission intensities (i.e. emissions per unit of product) are highest for beef (almost 300 kg CO2-eq per kilogram of protein produced), followed by meat and milk from small ruminants (165 and 112kg CO2-eq.kg respectively). Cow milk, chicken products and pork have lover global average emission intensities (below 100 CO2-eq/kg). However, emission intensity widely varies at sub-global level due to the different practices and inputs to production used around the world. According to FAO, the livestock sector plays an important role in climate change and has a high potential for emission reduction.

Together with increasing conversion of land to agricultural activities and the use of fertilizers, increasing energy use from fossil fuels is one of the main drivers that boosted agricultural emissions in the last decades. FAO estimated that in 2010 emissions from energy uses in food production sectors (including emissions from fossil fuel energy needed i.e. to power machinery, irrigation pumps and fishing vessels) amounted to 785 million tonnes CO2e.

FAO latest data show that in the past two decades around 40 percent of GHG agricultural outputs (including emissions from energy use) are based in Asia. The Americas has the second highest GHG emissions (close to 25 percent), followed by Africa, Europe and Oceania.

Agricultural emissions plus energy by continent, average 1990-2012. FAOSTAT database
Agricultural emissions plus energy by continent, average 1990-2012. FAOSTAT database.

According to FAO, since 1990 the top ten emitters are: China, India, US, Brazil, Australia, Russia, Indonesia, Argentina, Pakistan and Sudan.

Agricultural emissions plus energy by country, average 1990-2012. FAOSTAT database
Agricultural emissions plus energy by country, average 1990-2012. FAOSTAT database

The need for climate-smart agriculture and food production systems becomes even more compelling when considering the shocking level of waste within the global food system. According to the first FAO study to focus on the environmental impacts of food wastage, released in 2013 (accessible here in pdf), each year food that is produced and gone to waste amounts to 1.3 billion tonnes.

Food wastage’s carbon footprint is estimated at 3.3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent released into the atmosphere per year, to which must be added significant amounts of agricultural areas (1.4 billion hectares, globally) and water (250km3) used annually to produce food that is lost or wasted.

How to meet global food needs (with global population projected to reach 9 billion in 2050) without overexploiting soil and water, and with lower emissions contributing to climate change (whose impacts in turn affect water and food security) is the greatest farming challenge of of today’s and tomorrow’s world.

Credit: Best Climate Practices

Lessons from Jamaica’s Billion-Dollar Drought

The Yallahs River, one of the main water sources for Jamaica's Mona Reservoir, has been dry for months. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

The Yallahs River, one of the main water sources for Jamaica’s Mona Reservoir, has been dry for months. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

As Jamaica struggles under the burden of an ongoing drought, experts say ensuring food security for the most vulnerable groups in society is becoming one of the leading challenges posed by climate change.

“The disparity between the very rich and the very poor in Jamaica means that persons living in poverty, persons living below the poverty line, women heading households with large numbers of children and the elderly are greatly disadvantaged during this period,” Judith Wedderburn, Jamaica project director at the non-profit German political foundation Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES), told IPS.

“The food production line gets disrupted and the cost of food goes up, so already large numbers of families living in poverty have even greater difficulty in accessing locally grown food at reasonable prices.” — Judith Wedderburn of FES

“The concern is that as the climate change implications are extended for several years that these kinds of situations are going to become more and more extreme, [such as] greater floods with periods of extreme drought.”

Wedderburn, who spoke with IPS on the sidelines of a FES and Panos Caribbean workshop for journalists held here earlier this month, said Caribbean countries – which already have to grapple with a finite amount of space for food production – now have the added challenges of extreme rainfall events or droughts due to climate change.

“In Jamaica, we’ve had several months of drought, which affected the most important food production parishes in the country,” she said, adding that the problem does not end when the drought breaks.

“We are then affected by extremes of rainfall which results in flooding. The farming communities lose their crops during droughts [and] families associated with those farmers are affected. The food production line gets disrupted and the cost of food goes up, so already large numbers of families living in poverty have even greater difficulty in accessing locally grown food at reasonable prices and that contributes to substantial food insecurity – meaning people cannot easily access the food that they need to keep their families well fed.”

One local researcher predicts that things are likely to get even worse. Dale Rankine, a PhD candidate at the University of the West Indies (UWI), told IPS that climate change modelling suggests that the region will be drier heading towards the middle to the end of the century.

“We are seeing projections that suggest that we could have up to 40 percent decrease in rainfall, particularly in our summer months. This normally coincides with when we have our major rainfall season,” Rankine said.

“This is particularly important because it is going to impact most significantly on food security. We are also seeing suggestions that we could have increasing frequency of droughts and floods, and this high variability is almost certainly going to impact negatively on crop yields.”

He pointed to “an interesting pattern” of increased rainfall over the central regions, but only on the outer extremities, while in the west and east there has been a reduction in rainfall.

“This is quite interesting because the locations that are most important for food security, particularly the parishes of St. Elizabeth [and] Manchester, for example, are seeing on average reduced rainfall and so that has implications for how productive our production areas are going to be,” Rankine said.

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced recently that September 2014 was the hottest in 135 years of record keeping. It noted that during September, the globe averaged 60.3 degrees Fahrenheit (15.72 degrees Celsius), which was the fourth monthly record set this year, along with May, June and August.

According to NOAA’s National Climatic Data Centre, the first nine months of 2014 had a global average temperature of 58.72 degrees (14.78 degrees Celsius), tying with 1998 for the warmest first nine months on record.

Robert Pickersgill, Jamaica’s water, land, environment and climate change minister, said more than 18,000 small farmers have been affected by the extreme drought that has been plaguing the country for months.

He said the agricultural sector has lost nearly one billion dollars as a result of drought and brush fires caused by extreme heat waves.

Pickersgill said reduced rainfall had significantly limited the inflows from springs and rivers into several of the country’s facilities.

“Preliminary rainfall figures for the month of June indicate that Jamaica received only 30 per cent of its normal rainfall and all parishes, with the exception of sections of Westmoreland (54 percent), were in receipt of less than half of their normal rainfall. The southern parishes of St Elizabeth, Manchester, Clarendon, St Catherine, Kingston and St. Andrew and St. Thomas along with St Mary and Portland were hardest hit,” Pickersgill said.

Clarendon, he said, received only two percent of its normal rainfall, followed by Manchester with four percent, St. Thomas six percent, St. Mary eight percent, and 12 percent for Kingston and St. Andrew.

Additionally, Pickersgill said that inflows into the Mona Reservoir from the Yallahs and Negro Rivers are now at 4.8 million gallons per day, which is among the lowest since the construction of the Yallahs pipeline in 1986, while inflows into the Hermitage Dam are currently at six million gallons per day, down from more than 18 million gallons per day during the wet season.

“It is clear to me that the scientific evidence that climate change is a clear and present danger is now even stronger. As such, the need for us to mitigate and adapt to its impacts is even greater, and that is why I often say, with climate change, we must change,” Pickersgill told IPS.

Wedderburn said Jamaica must take immediate steps to adapt to climate change.

“So the challenge for the government is to explore what kinds of adaptation methods can be used to teach farmers how to do more successful water harvesting so that in periods of severe drought their crops can still grow so that they can have food to sell to families at reasonable prices to deal with the food insecurity.”

 Credit: IPS News

Bringing agriculture into Climate Change commitments

Government officials, representatives of UN bodies and agencies, intergovernmental organizations and civil society organizations are meeting at COP20 in Lima, Peru, to discuss a new global climate change agreement. Since the notion of agriculture is not on the agenda, The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation ACP-EU (CTA) and other organisations working in agriculture and rural development are striving to establish formal arrangements for addressing agriculture within the next UN Climate Change negotiations. As week two of COP 20 gets into full gear, we urge you to join the online discussion by tweeting #cop20 or #foodsecurity.

Lima

6KEYISSUESStepping up the challenge: six issues facing global climate change and food security

To this end, on 7 December 2014, a special seminar, Stepping up to the challenge – Six issues facing global climate change and food security, was co-organised by CARE International, the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) and the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) to inform COP negotiators, global development planners and policy-makers. Dr. Olu Ajayi, CTA Senior Programme Coordinator, ARD Policy, presented one of the lead papers at the seminar. The African Union Commission (AUC), represented by Dr. Abebe Haile Gabriel, gave a keynote address at the event. CTA also invited individuals to chair some of the sessions during the seminar, including farmers’ representatives from the Caribbean and representatives of the ACP secretariat.

A hackathon event on climate-smart agriculture

One week earlier, CTA, the International Potato Center (CIP) and CCAFS organised a hackathon on Climate-Smart Agriculture to deploy ICT tools that provide better and easier access to climate information. These, enable stakeholders to manage climate variability and make better decisions, and bring solutions that will help farmers to reduce the risk of crop failure. CTA also facilitated the participation of youths from the Caribbean, as means to upscale the impact of the event and achieve an economy of scale.

Agriculture should be integrated into UN climate change negotiations

As expressed in a CGIAR blog on this topic, this year’s negotiations are “an important opportunity to bring agriculture into climate change commitments and activities and tackle issues related to agriculture and food security.” In fact, agriculture is expected to be higher up on the agenda at COP21, to be held in Paris next year. On that occasion, CTA, CGIAR and Farming First will team up to provide support and disseminate knowledge around the incorporation of agriculture within climate change negotiations. This builds on their efforts in 2013, when they jointly developed a Guide to UNFCCC Negotiations on Agriculture – Toolkit for Communications and Outreach.

Credit: CTA 

 

Saint Lucian fishermen peg hopes on common fisheries policy

Fisherman John Francis, 60, prepares to head to sea in his boat. THOMSON REUTERS FOUNDATION/Alison Kentish

John Francis was just 17 when he began fishing more than four decades ago. But these days, the 60-year-old fisherman from Praslin, on the east coast of the Caribbean island of Saint Lucia, finds it hard to make a living.

“There used to be money in fishing. In the 70s, 80s and 90s I used to catch 500-600 pounds (230-270 kg) of fish a day,” he said. Now, “things have changed. These days I am lucky if I catch 500 pounds of fish in two weeks.”

Just as worrying, “the sea is different. I cannot explain it, but it looks like there are less and less fish, warmer temperatures and really bad storms,” he said.

He and other fishermen hit by over-fishing and climate change may soon win some relief, however, as a result of a common fisheries policy negotiated by ministers from 15 Caribbean countries to better conserve and manage the remaining fish.

The hard-won policy, announced last month, follows 10 years of negotiations by the Belize-based Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM).

Milton Houghton, the CRFM’s executive director, says the policy should aid sustainable management of the region’s over-exploited fisheries, improve food security and reduce poverty.

The policy “heralds a new era in cooperation in the conservation, management and use of marine resources,” he said.

The policy will establish a common fishing zone while allowing member states to retain management of their territorial seas. It also improves arrangements for the management of fish stocks in the Caribbean, which are presently not subject to any management regime.

For the fishermen of Saint Lucia, this could mean they will have access to greater fish reserves and a wider fishing area, albeit one with strict conservation and management measures.

Climate Change Impacts

Albert George, a 56-year-old fisherman, says he is happy that governments in the Caribbean are finally paying attention to the fishing, which he considers a crucial business, behind only agriculture in importance.

George hopes the new policy will protect fish stocks and help fishermen across the island cope with the effects of climate change, which he says have made it hard for him to make ends meet.

“The changes are everywhere,” George said. “I see the difference in the sea level and wind currents. Every year we fear the hurricane season because the storms are getting worse.

“We live on the coast and feed our families from the sea, and these days we can barely afford to send our children to school. We do not catch the amount of fish that we used to five years ago,” he said.

According to George, each fishing trip requires 1,000 East Caribbean dollars ($370) worth of fuel, but he often returns with a catch worth less than 10 percent of the fuel cost.

Changing Fish Ranges

Marine biologist Susan Singh-Renton, who served as the scientific advisor to the 15-nation CARICOM for over two decades and is now deputy executive director of the CRFM, said Caribbean fisheries face a range of pressures, including changes in the range of some fish.

“There are many challenges. Large fish such as dolphin, kingfish and tuna are being affected,” she said. “With the warming of sea water, the natural range of the fish becomes extended and they are able to move away; they are moving northward.”

For the past two years, the fishers’ problems have been exacerbated by the proliferation of an invasive species, lion fish, in Caribbean waters. Saint Lucia, Barbados and the Bahamas have eradication programmes in place.

“Sometimes we realise that our fish pots are filled, only to raise them and discover that out of 100 pounds of fish, the lion fish makes up 70-80 pounds. People are afraid of that fish and it is taking over our waters. Soon, we will not have any other fish left,” said Jeannette Francis, a fisherman unrelated to John Francis.

Despite regional efforts to encourage Caribbean people to view lion fish as a food, fishermen say it is a hard sell to those who have preferred tuna, dolphin and shellfish for decades.

According to data provided by the CRFM, the fisheries sector provides direct employment for 338,000 people in the region, generating $251 million in revenue annually.

Those involved in fishing in Saint Lucia are cautiously optimistic that the new policy will produce results – but some say they need to wait and see.

“We have had it with the talk. We just want action. We want to see people who can make things better actually do that for us,” said Margaret Jn Baptiste, 56, who has been fishing since she was 16.

“I believe it is always good when countries in the Caribbean come together to deal with a situation, but there is too much talk. We want to see the difference. They do not understand that our lives depend on this.”

Credit: Reuters News
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