Colombia faces multiple challenges in climate change adaptation

5 August, 2009 by (comments)

After another busy day at the National Dialogue about Climate Change event in Bogota, Colombia, CIAT’s Andy Jarvis provides a round-up.

Today we presented our report on the priorities and opportunities for adaptation to climate change in Colombia. Our report looks at the importance of agriculture in the national economy, and attempts to identify some of the major vulnerabilities.

Higher than average poverty levels in the agricultural sector (20-25% higher than in other sectors) highlights the importance of identifying adaptation mechanisms within a broader poverty alleviation context, and confirms the importance of agriculture in any development process for the country.

Beans - Darien, Colombia

Unfortunately the complexity and heterogeneity of agriculture in Colombia makes the identification of clear adaptation actions far more difficult as was the case for identifying the mitigation opportunities we addressed yesterday. Nevertheless, three messages are worth mentioning.

First, a large proportion of Colombian agriculture depends on either permanent crops (two-thirds of agricultural production) or livestock systems (over 90% of agricultural lands). Adaptation is all the more urgent in these systems, as decisions being made in farmer’s fields today have long-term implications. For example, the decision to plant a particular variety of fruit tree today is a decision which stands for as long as 20 years. With a rapidly changing climate, we need to ensure that the decisions made today can stand up to an increase in temperature.
Second, we know very little about the true implications of the expected changes on agricultural systems and specific crops. CIAT has been working hard towards filling this gap, but there is still much to do. We need to look at specific sectors, but also look holistically at the agricultural system. We can then define the key vulnerabilities and make rational decisions about research and development priorities to help smallholders adapt.
Third, there is an opportunity to support adaptation in the agricultural sector through the use of insurance mechanisms. This is now high on the agenda of the Colombian Ministry of Agriculture, and indeed at the global level. Index-based weather insurance could provide a safety net for smallholder farmers and incentivise solid agricultural practices. CIAT has been working on developing robust science-based insurance schemes, and we certainly intend to continue to develop the science in order to support insurance schemes in Latin America and elsewhere.

You can find out more about the climate challenges facing farmers around the world, and what the scientific community are doing to help at the CGIAR climate change blog.

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Filed Under: Climate Change, Latin America and the Caribbean, Regions