Agriculture is one of the sectors affected by climate change. The extreme weather events that will be increasing during the next years are a threat to food security and agricultural yields. Droughts and floods compromise the production for farmers and this affects their economy. According to Douglas Haynes in an article for the Boston Review, “Climate change is gradually pushing more people toward poverty and worsening the food insecurity of already-vulnerable people. In addition to producing new hardships, climate change is making inequalities more extreme by the year.” And here, from Honduras, I have observed this is true.
The evidence that climate change is seriously affecting the rural population of the world is still not enough to get agriculture to the formal part of international treaties’ negotiations. It is a problem you cannot hide from for very long. The agriculture sector emits greenhouse gases, is one of the most affected sectors by climate change and its effects are already showing. It is urgent that it is considered in negotiations in order to compromise countries to certain goals that make agriculture sustainable and adapt it to climate change.
As with most of the climate change effects, the effects of climate change on agriculture are being felt in regions such as Central America, even though the people here are some of those least responsible for emissions, like Douglas Haynes describes in the case of Nicaragua. When combined with poverty, weak governance, conflict, and poor market access, the effects of climate change are exacerbated and this is the case for a country like Honduras.
According to a recent study of the Economics of Climate Change in Central America, for the agricultural sector there will be a drop of 9% by 2100. For specific crops, the yields of bean and rice will decrease as the average global temperature increases and the precipitation patterns are affected. In the case of corn, at the beginning we will be having an increase in the yields but will eventually drop as the temperatures begin to increase more as predicted in the scenario A2 for 2100, if no adaptation measures are taken for these crops.
|Farmers in Honduras are suffering the effects of climate change. |
Photo from La Prensa, Honduran newspaper
So, what are we doing in Honduras to tackle the disastrous climate change effects in agriculture in order to ensure food security? The National Strategy for Climate Change (which will be presented in a future post) includes the agricultural sector proposing different adaptation and mitigation objectives and guidelines.
The main objectives for the agriculture sector are:
- Facilitate farmers adapt to climate change, improving resilience of crops and pastures to the thermal and water stress, and preventing or reducing the incidence of pests and diseases caused by climate change. For this objective some of the actions proposed are the selection of crops resistant to droughts, floods, and extreme temperatures; to promote technologies and systems for sustainable agriculture and integrated plague management.
- Prevent erosion, loss of possible productivity and desertification of soils, considering the effects of climate change. In order to achieve this objective, integrated management of soils and agroforestry systems will be promoted.
- Preserve and improve the nutritional quality and contribute to the food security of the population, under conditions climate change. This objective includes actions such as the diversification of crops and improve the production, processing, and storage of agricultural products.
In the last six months, thanks to an initiative of the Inter-American Institute forCooperation on Agriculture (IICA) who was asked by the Central American Integration System (SICA for Spanish) to perform actions in order to aid the adaptation of climate change of agriculture, a group of interested organizations has been getting together. In these meetings, the group works in identifying other institutions that might help in the implementation. It is a harder job than you might imagine, not all of the relevant actors are interested in climate change, and some of them are even climate change skeptics.
As of the moment, a first approach will be concluded by April 2012 when the results of a thorough investigation in climate change adaptation projects and publications in Honduras are presented. This investigation is supported by the members of the group and it is being performed by one of the organizations of this group, financed by international cooperation. The next step will be the systematization and analysis of the results of this investigation. With these done, each of the institutions part of the group will fully engage (hopefully) in their role of performing actions that will help agriculture adapt to climate change, minimizing the losses and achieving the objectives proposed in the National Climate Change Strategy.
It is certainly not a bright present for agriculture and climate change, but the future promises things will improve; and whether or not international treaties bind countries into performing actions to help adapt agriculture to climate change, we at Honduras will still be working on them.