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Two degrees too much?

Adapting coffee production to rising temperatures and increasing pests is crucial (© Neil Palmer (CIAT))
Adapting coffee production to rising temperatures and increasing pests is crucial
© Neil Palmer (CIAT)

With arctic weather conditions currently affecting much of Europe, it is difficult for many to believe that the sub-zero temperatures could be the result of global warming. For many elsewhere, however, there is no doubt that the earth's climate is changing and the impact of rising temperatures on smallscale farmers in different regions around the world is already being seen. Two case studies recently released by CIAT, the International Center for Tropical Agriculture, at the launch of a new programme on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), dramatically highlight the effects of a two degree rise in temperature.

In the south-western Cauca Department of Colombia, high-value, gourmet coffee is a major crop at higher, cooler elevations. As one smallscale coffee farmer says, "Coffee is the only way for us to have a good life here, the only source of employment. It is the only crop that drives everything in the region."

However, moving 15km downhill to an area two degrees warmer, there's a glimpse of what coffee production in the region could be like in the future: coffee has all but been abandoned as bushes have succumbed to coffee rust and the coffee berry borer. Facing bankruptcy, most farmers have turned over their land to cassava, pasture, and livestock production, with some also growing pineapples. As a farmer whose father grew coffee all his life laments, "There is no future for coffee here."

Further downhill, in an area more than two degrees warmer, this former coffee-growing area has been declared marginal. The impact of the rising incidence of coffee pests and disease means the coffee produced there is of poor quality, and receives low prices. Former coffee producers now grow crops like cassava, plantain and pineapple and find themselves sole traders in tough markets, with little support. As farmer Enrique Zapatos says: "Cassava also has a lot of problems. It's not that easy to grow but since you don't have many options - you have to grow it."

Still time to adapt

In the Upper West region of Ghana, farmers are struggling with rising temperatures and unpredictable rains (© Neil Palmer (CIAT))
In the Upper West region of Ghana, farmers are struggling with rising temperatures and unpredictable rains
© Neil Palmer (CIAT)

Coffee producers at higher elevations still have time to prepare for the future. One short-term solution is to protect their coffee plants by planting shade trees such as plantain. Longer-term, new, more resilient coffee varieties may be necessary. Between the coffee rows, farmer Soralida De Moreno is trialling pepper as a transitional crop. "We have to face up to the different problems we have that make it difficult for small farmers to keep farming," she says. "Otherwise, everyday agriculture will decline in the face of all these changes."

In Africa, in the Upper West region of Ghana, farmers are struggling to feed themselves as rising temperatures and unpredictable rains compound the problems of an increasing population and declining soil fertility. And yet, only 120km south and two degrees cooler, in the country's Northern Region, the land is much more fertile, yields are better and rains start earlier and last longer. Over recent years, whole communities of migrant farmers have sprung up. But as one farmer states, "We know that the heat is coming - the same heat that drove us from the Upper West is catching up with us here as well."

Rising to the challenge?

To emphasise the importance of finding sustainable, scientific solutions to enable small farmers worldwide to adapt to the challenge of climate change, these case studies were presented at the launch of the new collaborative CCFAS of the CGIAR (Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research) and the Earth System Science Partnership (ESSP), which will be coordinated by CIAT. The US$200 million CCAFS programme will build on current research-for-development to identify and test climate change adaptation and mitigation practices, technologies, and policies suitable for poor smallholder farmers and others affected by climate change.

Click the picture to view 'Two Degrees Up' Colombia case study (© Neil Palmer (CIAT))
Click the picture to view 'Two Degrees Up' Colombia case study
© Neil Palmer (CIAT)

"This new program cuts across all of the 15 CGIAR centers and draws on a wide spectrum of partners," said CCAFS programme leader Bruce Campbell. "It covers every agricultural sector and region where food security and environmental sustainability really matter - fish, livestock, forests, potatoes, grains, beans, local varieties - every major food type and agro-ecological system there is."

Much of the work on the ground for CCFAS will begin in 2011 with an initial focus on East and West Africa and the Indo-Gangetic Plains of south Asia. "We want to bring a sense of urgency to finding and implementing solutions and attracting more support to this effort," Campbell continued. "It's an amazing opportunity for us all to work together across the developing world, across all the production systems, to get integrated solutions. The Cancún climate talks may have ended but our work has just begun."

With contributions from: Neil Palmer, CIAT

Date published: January 2011

 

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Nice blog showing global warming effect on food production a... (posted by: Dr J KNigam)

 

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