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New Agriculturist - Focus on... 09/5 Focus on... Coping with climate change Over millennia, farmers have coped with changes in their environment and learnt to adapt. But with global warming, weather patterns are becoming more erratic and unpredictable than ever, and farming livelihoods increasingly under threat from weather-related disasters such as drought and floods. Over the next few decades the situation seems certain to become worse, as rising temperatures result in greater food insecurity, disease, and loss of biodiversity. All this, while farmers are asked to grow more food for an expanding population. In this issue, we focus on some of the challenges and costs of coping with climate change. From the coffee slopes of Colombia to the pastoral lands of the Horn of Africa and the river deltas of Bangladesh, we review just a small selection of the technologies, practices and policies that are helping, as well as hindering, adaptation and mitigation strategies. Farmers' perspectives on a changing climate Around the world farmers are reporting that the seasons are changing. Seasons are becoming hotter and drier, rainy seasons shorter, more violent and increasingly erratic, and some temperate seasons are disappearing altogether. These observations are detailed by a study involving famers from across East and South East Asia, Southern and Eastern Africa and Latin America in a new Oxfam report titled What happened to the seasons? "The results are striking because of the extraordinary consistency they show across the world," explains John Magrath, Oxfam programme researcher and one of the authors. "Changing seasonality may be one of the most significant impacts of climate change for poor farmers, and that is happening now," Magrath warns. Leaders at the recent G8 summit in L'Aquila, Italy, agreed that average global temperatures should not be allowed to rise more than 2°C. But according to Oxfam even a rise of 2°C entails "death, suffering and devastation" for at least 660 million people by 2030. Oxfam warns that due to the threats posed by climate change and changing seasons, chronic hunger will become more prevalent: "The true cost of climate change will not be measured in dollars, but in millions or billions of lives." Changing seasonality Farmers are observing increasingly unreliable precipitation during the long rains. In Uganda and Malawi for instance, rains are tending to come in short and localised downpours, interspersed with dry spells instead of falling consistently throughout the season. "Rains no longer have a particular pattern," Wilson Chiphale from Malawi observes. "Sometimes they come early when people have not prepared, sometimes they end too soon and the maize wilts, sometimes we experience very, very heavy rains that last up to four days, which washes away all the nutrients." Similar observations have been made by farmers elsewhere. "We used to get three good rains. Now we don't even get two," Gary Novamn from Haiti revealed. "There's no more rainy season, just the hurricane season." Increasing temperatures throughout the year, drier winters and more intense but less predictable monsoons have been reported by Bangladeshi farmers. "In my younger days, the rain, the winters and summers all had specific times," Radhika Devbarman recalls. "Now I am afraid of prolonged summer and sudden flood." Gambling with the weather With shortening growing seasons and erratic weather, it is increasingly difficult for many farmers to plan their cropping cycles. "We've stopped adopting seasonal planting because it's so useless," says an exasperated Florence Madamu from Uganda. "Now we just try all the time. We waste a lot of seed that way, and our time and energy." Paul Thiao, a Senegalese cereal farmer concurs: "Farmers have become gamblers. The system has been disturbed and now they must take a gamble on when the rain will come. But they are gambling with their livelihoods." Crop choice is also being affected, with many reports indicating that staple crops, such as wheat, maize, rice and beans are suffering the most from seasonal changes. "Due to irregular rainfall and random floods, growing rice has become a big risk," Afazuddin Akhand from Bangladesh reveals. "Many farmers switch to fish farming or sell their land to industrialists, which is more profitable." Adapting for survival With predictions that seasonal changes are likely to get worse due to climate change, the authors insist that farmers need assistance to adapt. Many are already experimenting with new crop varieties, but diversification requires resources and, with limited access to water, land, capital and expertise, the poorest are increasingly disadvantaged. Women are particularly affected, as in Nepal, where frequent crop failure has seen more men migrating, leaving women to look after their families and produce a harvest, despite having the least access to resources. "Communities - especially women - see adaptation as difficult because there are limited alternative livelihoods, and creating these livelihoods needs to be part of long-term plans to deal with climate change," Magrath explains. In addition, the report calls for wide-ranging support to enable farmers to deal with unpredictability. This includes access to reliable and appropriate weather forecasts and food storage facilities to help smooth out fluctuations in supply and protect food against pests and diseases. At the same time, water management options such as water harvesting and flood defences would help farmers cope with increasingly unpredictable rainfall. Greater access to crops and varieties, particularly drought-tolerant and fast-maturing crops, would also help farmers to cope. "After testing the soil and getting advice we think we can get more money from planting ginger and turmeric - they don't need much water, unlike rice and wheat," Karna Bahadur from Nepal remarks, "but we need support to do so." A matter of justice Many poor countries are already suffering from the impacts of climate change, despite being amongst the least responsible for the changes. In Bolivia the Civil Society Platform Against Climate Change, a citizen pressure group, is arguing that money for adaptation is a matter of global climate justice. One of their demands is for an international compensation fund for those who are suffering from climate change. Similar calls are coming from civil society in Bangladesh and elsewhere. "Certain changes - such as the continuing melting of glaciers - are inevitable even with emissions cuts," says Magrath, "so adaptation is essential, not just desirable. Yet rich countries continue to drag their feet about creating finance mechanisms to help poor countries to adapt." Climate change: a high price to pay Drought, flooding, increasing storms and widespread crop failures are just some of the predicted consequences of climate change. In 2007 the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) estimated that the annual global cost of adapting to our changing environment by 2030 would be between US$40 - 170 billion. But, according to a newly published report, Assessing the Costs of Adaptation to Climate Change, the real costs of adaptation are likely to be at least two-to-three times higher. "Previous estimates of adaptation costs have substantially misjudged the scale of funds needed. We should be planning for US$200 to 300 billion a year just for adaptation," states Professor Martin Parry, former co-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and lead author of the study. "Finance is the key that will unlock the negotiations in Copenhagen," adds Camilla Toulmin, director of the International Institute for Environment and Development, publishers of the report. "But if governments are working with the wrong numbers, we could end up with a false deal that fails to cover the real costs of adaptation to climate change," she says. A substantial underestimation The authors also highlight that many of the sectors studied by the UNFCCC were incomplete. The estimate for water, for example, excluded the costs of adapting to flooding and made no allowance for costs for transporting water within countries. UNFCC estimates were also too low for sea level rise and, by assessing only three major diseases, included less than half of the total disease burden likely to emerge as a result of climate change. Not only were UNFCC estimates too low but, warn the authors, key sectors including ecosystems, energy, manufacturing, retailing, mining and tourism were not taken into account. "The adaptation costs for ecosystems alone could amount to over US$350 billion a year, including both protected and non-protected areas," explains Dr Pam Berry, senior research fellow at the University of Oxford. Assumptions on continuing low levels of development in Africa were also assumed in the UN's calculations; applying a 'climate mark-up' to low levels of infrastructure in developing countries produces low estimations of future costs because there is less to protect. But, warn the authors of the new report, if this 'adaptation deficit' is not resolved and infrastructure is not upgraded to an adequate level, "the enhanced investment for adaptation will not be sufficient to avoid serious damage from climate impacts." With the number of people at risk from hunger likely to exceed one billion in 2010, the adaptation deficit in agriculture is particularly high. The Millennium Development Goals, if achieved, could make good this adaptation deficit, but this 'non-climate' investment is not considered in the UN's study. "If there aren't higher levels of development, people will continue to go hungry," cautions Parry. "US$100 billion will be a sticking plaster over current underdevelopment." The 11 British scientists involved in writing the new report call for more detailed case studies to be undertaken, but warn that when 'bottom-up' case studies are combined, the total level of funding required is likely to be significant. One of the few examples already available for adapting a single watershed in China gives costs at US$1 billion a year. Another study concludes that adapting crop irrigation systems could cost US$8 billion per year by 2030. In addition, the report highlights that the UNFCCC estimates do not include the costs of 'residual damage' that will occur where adaption is not possible or too expensive. "Some of the effects of climate change will be so adverse that we will see desertification of some areas of agricultural land and it will just be impossible to grow food," explains Professor Richard Tiffin, Head of the Agricultural and Food Economics department at the University of Reading. "We are already seeing this happening in areas of Africa and Australia." Up to 20 percent of the potential impacts of climate change for the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sectors might not be avoided, even with adequate levels of adaptation. Negotiating a deal at Copenhagen "Developing countries have a high expectation that there will be sufficient money at Copenhagen to finance adaptation either in technology transfers or in hard cash to invest in new development," Parry remarks. "This is in addition to covering their costs of reducing emissions." A draft climate proposal recently released by the African Union in the run up to Copenhagen suggests they will be asking for US$67 billion a year for adaptation in Africa. But as yet developed countries have only committed to around US$100 billion in total. "The amount of money on the table at Copenhagen is one of the key factors that will determine whether we achieve a climate change agreement," Parry adds. "Poorer countries are unlikely to agree to anything until they are confident the world will provide enough money for adaptation." He concludes, "Yes, US$300 billion is a significant cost. But it frankly wouldn't dent the income of developed countries significantly. As often with these things, it's a matter of political will." Pastoralists: moving with the times? With children severely malnourished, animals weak or dying, and people struggling to find water, exceptionally dry conditions in the Horn of Africa have added to the cumulative effect of three to four consecutive seasons of poor or failed rains. Severe shortages of pasture and water, combined with high food prices, have left an estimated 24 million people in the region currently food insecure. For the many pastoralists affected, the drought is the worst in living memory. The situation in northern Kenya and beyond is evidence to some that pastoralists will be among the most vulnerable groups affected by climate change as rangelands and water sources dry up. But others ascertain that, as pastoralists have traditionally evolved to cope with scarce resources and uncertain agro-ecological conditions, they are well-suited to adapt to their changing environment. A fixed abode The Tuareg nomads, for example, are well adapted to the dry marginal land of the Sahel but as rainfall becomes increasingly unpredictable, many are losing their livestock and traditional lands are becoming progressively more degraded. Rather than lose their way of life, however, pastoralist communities in Niger are being supported by TEARFUND and its partner JEMED* to establish 'fixation' points. These sites provide a settlement area where schools, health centres, water dykes and grain banks are established. Pasture management associations to protect and improve pastureland are also created. Over 20 fixation sites now exist across the Sahel. Access to services allow families to survive the toughest periods in the year and, increasingly, women and children stay at the camps, whilst the men continue a nomadic lifestyle with their livestock. During drought periods, communities are advised to sell their animals, retaining only the best breeding stock. Consequently, families have lost a third less livestock than others in neighbouring areas. Adapting to change In the Ethiopian Borana rangelands, pastoralists have retained their nomadic ways but are replacing their cattle herds with camels, which feed on trees as well as grasses and can survive longer periods without water. For other pastoralist groups, adapting involves adopting alternative livelihood options, although income-generating opportunities are often limited in remote dryland areas. Lack of market access for adding value to livestock products is a common constraint. In the long-term it is possible that pastoralists may even benefit by climate change. A substantial increase in rainfall, as predicted by some climate models for East Africa after 2020, would provide more dry-season pasture and longer access to wet-season pasture. However, negative impacts are still likely with higher temperatures resulting in greater heat and disease stress for livestock, and the possibility that as land becomes more favourable for agriculture, pastoralists will face even greater competition for their land. The benefits of pastoralism Looking ahead to the UN summit at Copenhagen, it is timely to consider the role of pastoralism in limiting the extent of global climate change. If adequately supported, good rangeland management helps to restore degraded lands and improve carbon sequestration. Rangelands also provide valuable ecosystem services by sustaining vital biodiversity and providing opportunities for income from wildlife tourism. In East Africa, 90 percent of meat consumed comes from pastoral herds and, in Kenya alone, the sector is estimated to be worth US$800 million. However, years of inappropriate development policies and political marginalisation have hindered pastoralists' ability to build resilience against climate change. The potential of pastoralism to contribute to economic growth and provide sustainable stewardship of drylands continues to be overlooked by policymakers. Planning for change But if the political will is to be mobilised, much more needs to be done to recognise pastoralist's rights over their land, and to allow pastoralists to be heard. For example, a pioneering climate-change related initiative in Kenya and Mali, led by SOS Sahel, aims to help pastoral communities communicate their ideas more effectively to those in power and to put local people in control of planning for changes in their environment. In addition, early warning systems for drought and floods need to be strengthened. Kenya reportedly has one of the strongest early warning systems in sub-Saharan Africa. And yet the current failure in Kenya's drought management system is partly blamed on the slow response of government and donor agencies to early alerts. Worldwide, two-fifths of the earth's land is categorised as drylands and pastoralism is evidently crucial to the wellbeing of millions of people who depend on these arid lands. However, it is clear that the full implications of climate change on pastoralists are not yet well understood and much remains to be done if pastoralists are build resilience and adapt or be given a choice to settle for something other than an increasingly precarious future. *JEMED - Jeunesse En Mission Entraide et Développement Biochar - putting carbon back If burning fossil fuels has caused global warming, trapping atmospheric carbon dioxide in a stable, solid form and putting it back in the ground could be part of the solution. Made from organic wastes such as crop residues, rather than cut timber, 'green charcoal' is more eco-friendly than traditional charcoal. Moreover, when a finely chopped form of green charcoal known as 'biochar' is used as a soil improver, it not only sequesters carbon dioxide, but retains water, nutrients and growth-promoting microorganisms in the root zone, resulting in much improved crop yields. Pyro technique The making of green charcoal for fuel gained international recognition in 2002, with the development of the 'Pyro' kiln. Pioneered by a Paris-based NGO, Pro-Natura, the charcoal-making machine has been used in Senegal since late 2007, producing fuel briquettes from flakes of green charcoal mixed with a binding agent such as starch, molasses or clay. Unlike an ordinary kiln, organic matter can be continuously fed into the French-made Pyro, and charcoal extracted, with no need for repeated cooling and reheating. Its efficient design means that it requires little external fuelling, and can produce up to five tons of charcoal each day. Gases released by the heating process are burned in a second, post-combustion chamber, maintaining the temperature of the oxygen-free kiln at 550°C. Excess gas may also be put to other uses, such as drying the organic feedstock, or heating greenhouses. Soil improver Recently, Pro-Natura has been trialling an agronomic use of biochar, incorporating it as a soil improver and replicating a farming method used for millennia in the Amazon rainforests of Brazil. Terra Preta, literally 'black land', is the name given to the dark-coloured soils farmed by Amazonian Indians up to 7,000 years ago. For generations these farmers increased their yields by adding charcoal and manure to their soil; research suggests that carbon particles improve the uptake of nutrients and water by plants, and support a rich population of fungi and bacteria, which contribute to improved growth and disease resistance. The method is now under trial in some arid parts of West Africa. In 2008 a pilot project was launched at Ross Bethio in north-west Senegal, Pro-Natura's main green charcoal and biochar production site. Local farmers have been given biochar, together with training and financial incentives to encourage adoption and facilitate research on the impact of biochar on yields of vegetables, maize and rice. Results suggest that adding one kilogramme of biochar to a square metre of soil can double yields; beyond that, the porous material holds water and nutrients in the root zone, thereby increasing the benefits from other inputs, such as irrigation and composting. Carbon credits As a domestic fuel, the use of green charcoal briquettes has been approved as a source of carbon credits, available on the voluntary market. Pro-Natura is now working to get a carbon credit rating for the CO2sequestered in soil through the use of biochar as a soil improver. Preliminary calculations estimate that at least 30 tons of CO2per hectare are sequestered given a 1 kg/m2rate of biochar application. If validated, voluntary purchase of such carbon credits could help to fund the scaling up of the technology. Laurens Rademakers, who promoted biochar in the UK's Manchester Report for 2009, argues that biochar could ultimately have a global role in reducing atmospheric CO 2whilst increasing food production. That suggestion has fuelled a heated debate in the UK press, with environmental columnist George Monbiot particularly sceptical that biochar could be a silver bullet to fight global warming and food insecurity. He attacks the concept of vast plantations being created to grow feedstock for biochar, given the ecological damage this would cause. However, biochar advocates have responded by dismissing this as useful to Monbiot in creating a debate, but not a part of mainstream biochar thinking. Local technology Maintaining the green credentials of biochar is vital to its future success, not least in attracting carbon credit payments. This is likely to mean that the use of green charcoal, whether as a fuel or soil improver, remains a locally-focussed activity. Biochar feedstock, such as maize stalks, cotton plants or wood shavings, tends to be low density, so transporting it large distances to a centralised production unit would soon offset its value as a renewable energy. Family-based production of biochar is also possible, although current designs of domestic kiln do not recycle gases and are therefore less environmentally friendly than the Pyro kiln. And, while home-made green charcoal could help families increase their crop yields and potentially reduce their energy or fertiliser bills, organising a system for households to earn carbon credit payments would be challenging. Building resilience in the city Urban farmers have dealt with changing climates for as long as there have been cities. In fact, the world's first cities in Mesopotamia probably developed for the purpose of practising agriculture around a central irrigation system during an earlier period of volatile climate. Urban agriculture can be a valuable response to climate uncertainty and a crucial part of a resilient city. However, city-dwelling farmers in the developing and developed world alike face their own challenges from climate change. If urban agriculturists are to enable their cities to be resilient they also must find resilience for their own farms. Seeking water in Beijing While not quite as ancient as the first cities of Mesopotamia, Beijing has been a major centre for millennia, and the Chinese capital has probably never been without a large agricultural fringe. Today, however, the city is in the ninth year of a drought that climate experts suspect may represent a new trend. As rainfall and the water table decline, agriculture, which represents about one third of the city's water use, is facing uncertainty: the groundwater used for almost all irrigation is becoming unavailable in some areas and in 2007 the city instituted a fee for excessive agricultural use. To remain resilient, Beijing's farmers are looking for ways to diversify their water sources, and two approaches have been borrowed from Chinese agriculture's long history. Beijing's wastewater was often reused for irrigation in the distant past, and the practice has revived since 2000 with the municipal government distributing water from the central treatment plant: in 2007, 20 per cent of irrigation requirement was met with wastewater, but only in areas near the plant. The other technique, rainwater harvesting, is being introduced by the NGO SWITCH, which has been helping farmers modify greenhouse roofs to gather rain for the past four years. "Rainwater harvesting technologies have been applied for many years in the northwest of China," explains Ji Wenhua of SWITCH, "but most of the systems in Beijing have been built since 2005. There are now hundreds of sites with rainwater harvesting and most of them are in active use." Coping in Quito A world away, Quito, Ecuador provides an example of the challenges facing urban farmers with little municipal integration or recognition. Located high in the Andes, Quito is surrounded by communities growing crops in small plots across some 64 hillsides encircling the city. The region is facing higher temperatures and droughts, and when rain does come it is increasingly as heavy storms causing landslides on the steep slopes. While in Beijing urban agriculture has achieved recognition as a major part of the economy and food supply, in Quito it is the domain of the poor and marginalized, growing to support their households and maintain food security. While the city is a leader in climate change planning, says Isabelle Anguelovski, a researcher from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, "Agriculture has been quite independent, up to now, of the climate discourse in Quito. The priorities of the climate discourse have really been water provision, risk management, and biodiversity protection." With limited official support*, farmers have nevertheless begun to adapt. In many plots, corn and potatoes have given way to indigenous Andean crops such as quinoa, which require less water and hold the soil against erosion. Farmers along the streams flowing from the shrinking Antisana Glacier are also adopting more conservation measures for water use and protecting key ecosystems in the watershed. Such measures build resilience at the grassroots, but greater support from the city is needed. A new urban tomato In every city around the world, urban farmers depend on vegetables. These high value crops can be the most profitable use of small urban plots, and being difficult to transport, resilient cities need vegetable farms near at hand. Foremost among these urban staples is the tomato. Unfortunately tomatoes, being 95 per cent water, are hard hit by heat and drought, and AVRDC, the World Vegetable Center, is now seeking to breed tomatoes that can handle harsher climates in urban situations. The breeding project is global in scope, crossing tomatoes with their wild relatives. One, Solanum chilense, from the deserts of Chile, grows a much larger root system and does not wilt in the heat. Another, Solanum pennellii, is an efficient water user, and can even absorb dew through its leaves. The research team, led by Dr. Robert de la Peña, is tapping into these natural sources of resilience. The new varieties are already allowing farmers in the tropical lowlands to grow tomatoes during the hot-wet season for the first time ever, and should prove valuable to urban agriculturists facing the sorts of challenges seen in Beijing and Quito. Along with water, land, and recognition in urban planning, the plants available to urban farmers are keys to their resilience in a changing world. *The city has begun supporting urban farmers through a dedicated office, AGRUPAR (Agricultura Urbana Participativa), but its function is limited to technical assistance; it is not integrated into larger municipal functions or planning. Bangladesh - farming the flood As one of the largest deltas in the world, Bangladesh has always suffered from floods, cyclones, and storm surges during the monsoon season. But with changes in the global climate, flooding and riverbank erosion are becoming more severe as rainfall rates change and the sea level rises. With lives and livelihoods increasingly under threat, adaptation is essential if vulnerable communities are to cope with their changing environment. Bangladesh is one of the most densely-populated countries in the world, forcing many of the poorest to live on unstable riverbanks and flood-prone areas: more than 100,000 people are forced to move each year as their villages and livelihoods are washed away. In 2004, flooding across two-fifths of the country destroyed almost four-fifths of the crops leaving ten million homeless. Located at the meeting point of the Brahmaputra and Tista Rivers, Gaibandha District, in the north of Bangladesh, is particularly susceptible to flooding and riverbank erosion during the annual monsoon season. "The communities I work with are keen to find a way to adapt to their changing environment," says Nazmul Chowdhury, Practical Action's project officer in Bangladesh. Despite their precarious situation, he adds "they are not sitting back and waiting for help." Floating gardens and pumpkin cultivation are just two innovative projects that Practical Action, an international NGO, has developed in partnership with local communities to help them adapt to riverbank erosion and flooding by strengthening their livelihoods. Floating gardens The floating garden, for example, allows farmers to grow food on flooded land, as well as ponds, canals and other water courses. Simple and relatively inexpensive, an eight by one meter raft is constructed from water hyacinth, a common weed found in many parts of Bangladesh. A layer of soil, compost and manure is then placed on the surface of the raft, in which vegetables such as gourd and okra are planted. The rafts only last one year, but old ones are often used as compost for growing crops in the following dry season. Tare Begum lives on a flood embankment on the Brahmaputra river and, in the past, has struggled to grow enough food for her family on the infertile and flood-prone land. But, after receiving training on vegetable production and floating garden construction, enough food was produced to feed her family and the surplus sold at market to provide a profit. "This has made a great difference to my life," she explains. "Now I have enough food during the wet season and I can give some to help my relatives as well." Picking pumpkins When the waters subside, silted sand plains are left behind. These 'char' lands are infertile, but 'sandbar cropping' is a simple, innovative and very low-cost option: four vegetable seeds are planted into a deep pit in the sand, which is filled with compost. Pumpkins have proved to be particularly suited to these conditions; not only do they yield well but they can also be stored, providing food and income throughout the year. In 2008, over 1,300 families benefitted from adopting sandbar cropping and more than 160,000 pumpkins were harvested, generating a market value of about US$2 million. And yet each pit costs just 40 cents (32 taka) to prepare, including labour, seeds, manure and compost. "The opportunities and the technology are a blessing for us," Saiful Islam remarks. "It has opened our eyes to see a better life and a new hope to live." Initially, Islam cultivated 50 pits after receiving training and seeds, but then increased this to 433, growing almost 4,000 pumpkins worth more than US$2,000. Now he is passing on this knowledge to support other landless farmers in his area. Building on success In order to maximise the impacts of these projects, people are shown how to store and market their excess produce, enabling them to maximise return on investment. Islam, for example, used the profit he made to lease land and invest in fish production and beef fattening. Like Islam, selected people are trained to pass on their new skills to other members of their communities, enabling them to benefit from the technologies and circulate them to a wider area. Floating gardens and pumpkin growing have directly benefitted more than 100,000 people so far. But this has not been easy: at first, many men were wary about women becoming involved with these projects but, after holding focus groups and working with communities and local authorities to demonstrate the benefits, almost 70 per cent of the beneficiaries are now women. While these initiatives are helping people to cope with the changing environment, "adaptation alone is not the answer," Chowdhury warns. "The stark reality is if the world's poor are not put at the heart of the debate at Copenhagen, those contributing least to the problem will continue to suffer from the devastating effects of climate change." Trouble brewing for Colombian coffee The countryside in Colombia's western Risaralda department is breathtakingly beautiful. But to the expert eye, the signs of climate strife are clear: steep-sided slopes that used to be hillsides of coffee are now grazed by livestock, and there are large tracts of plantain where coffee bushes once stood. These are worrying sights in the zona cafetera, a region renowned for its distinctive, high quality Arabica coffee beans. Obscured by morning mist, the small hilltop town of Balboa is one of many in the region facing an uncertain future. Around 90 per cent of the local economy depends on the coffee trade but in the past few years rising temperatures, excessive rainfall during flowering and increasing disease pressure have meant all the coffee farmers in these, the foothills of the western Andes, are feeling the pinch. Some 2,000 hectares of coffee around Balboa have already been pulled up and converted to lower-value pastures or plantain. Bean there, done that Moving a small herd of cattle through a plantain field, Leonardo Palacio is one of the farmers to have abandoned coffee. "Where we now stand, there used to be coffee," he says, motioning around us. "Over there, where the paddock is, there was also coffee. I can't plant coffee any longer; it's just too hot." An hour's drive from Balboa, in the town of Apía, smallscale coffee farmer Javier Román is also feeling the heat. "We noticed the climate beginning to change about five years ago," he says, clinging to a tree branch on the edge of a slippery coffee slope. "Now it's either too hot or there's too much rain. The climate has changed so much you can no longer make forecasts." Despite being only 30-years-old, Román has made some difficult decisions to protect his income and his family. "I've grown coffee all my life but I've had to plant other crops: vegetables, fruit trees, and now I also raise chickens. You learn and risk it all so there is always food on the table." But Román is one of the lucky ones. Much of his coffee is grown using the traditional system of interplanting taller plantain trees as shade crops. As well as moderating the temperature and sheltering the coffee bushes from heavy rain, shade also provides the habitat for natural predators of the coffee pest Broca, or coffee berry borer (Hypothenemus hampei), which can devastate yields. At around 1,700m above sea level, Roman's crop has also managed to avoid coffee rust (Hemileia vastatrix). Higher temperatures mean that this virulent fungus, which strikes fear into the hearts of coffee producers worldwide, has been resurgent on the lower altitude slopes of Risaralda, and is a major cause of the coffee exodus. The farmers who have chosen to stand and fight must either plant rust resistant varieties or invest in expensive chemical fungicides. The odds are stacked against them. No time to lose For Andy Jarvis, a climate change expert at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), the experiences of coffee producers in Risaralda only confirm what the climate models are showing. Using GIS technology and models of crop adaptation, CIAT's Decision and Policy Analysis (DAPA) program has been getting glimpses into the future of coffee in several Latin American countries: without adaptation, the prospects are bleak. "According to our models, climate change is going to force coffee production across Latin America to even higher altitudes," he says. "But as you move up a mountain you lose more and more land area, which can cause major social, economic and cultural upheaval. Coffee is a major employer in rural Colombia, and switching to less labour intensive crops, or livestock, could be a major blow to local economies." Farmers therefore need to start adapting coffee production to the new challenges, and quickly. "The pace and scale of climate change in Risaralda is frightening," Jarvis continues. "But what is of greater concern is that there is still not enough work being done on adaptation. This needs to be happening now, not just in Risaralda, but across Latin America. For example, planting shade trees today can buffer the impacts of climate change and buy a farmer a couple of extra decades to diversify production." But, according to Jarvis, farm-level adaptation is only part of the solution: it's time for the world powers to show strong support for vulnerable farmers. "We've spent the last ten years trying to cut greenhouse gas emissions, but it's not enough on its own," he says. "At the United Nations climate change conference in Copenhagen in October, our politicians need to do two things: make historic commitments to reduce emissions significantly, and find the money to support urgent adaptation." For some coffee farmers in Risaralda, whatever is decided in Copenhagen will come too late. But for many, the right support could help protect an industry with both regional and international significance. Green light for Ethiopia's REDD project The Bale Mountains of south eastern Ethiopia are a water tower for millions in East Africa. In recent years, however, agricultural expansion has lead to substantial and continuing deforestation, threatening the watershed functions of the mountain region. Immigration has accentuated the problem, with settlers from other parts of Ethiopia carving farmland from government-owned forest. Yet, given the right incentives, many forest products could be harvested without threatening the forest or its great biodiversity. In addition, a new scheme currently under development could make the Bale Mountains one of the largest Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) projects in the world. The development of such a REDD project is not simple, with issues of land tenure a particular problem. In Ethiopia, a largely rural population is dependent on resources that do not legally belong to them; uncertain of state forest authority plans, they have little incentive for sustainable harvesting. Over the last ten years, however, two NGOs - FARM-Africa and SOS Sahel - have successfully promoted participatory forest management (PFM) in the area, and this has now been included in regional and federal forest planning (see Putting people before trees). PFM enables communities to earn money from their forest and encourages more sustainable, longer-term management. Sustainable finance But PFM cannot succeed without investment and training. Hence, if large areas of forest are to be managed sustainably and continue providing environmental services, long-term finance is needed. The Bale REDD project aims to meet this need. By avoiding deforestation that would have occurred in the project's absence, carbon credits are generated and can be sold to individuals or organisations in voluntary carbon markets. The amount of carbon credits available is estimated from the difference between a business-as-usual deforestation scenario - the rate of deforestation across the Bale region is three to nine per cent - and a REDD project scenario. If the rate of deforestation could be reduced by just half over the 500,000 hectare area, a 20 year REDD project could prevent millions of tonnes of greenhouse gases from reaching the atmosphere. Sale of these emission reductions could generate significant revenues. In order for the project to be successful the finance generated from carbon credit sales must reach those who bear the costs of forest conservation. No consensus currently exists on how the finance from sale of carbon credits should be shared. However, revenues must cover a wide range of costs, including: project development; forest conservation activities; third party monitoring, verification and certification of the emissions reductions; and the marketing and sale of emissions reductions, including design of legal contracts. It might also support national level capacity building for climate change mitigation and adaptation. The Bale REDD project is investigating the costs of avoided deforestation to the livelihoods of communities living in and around the forest. With this information, an assessment will be made as to whether community needs can be met amongst all other project costs. There are also plans to establish a trust fund, managed by representatives of the forestry department, community based organisations, NGOs and a member of the carbon finance sector. This fund would receive a large proportion of the carbon revenue and aid in the re-distribution of funds to communities. Sustainable management Ongoing sale of carbon credits is dependent on communities complying with forest management plans. To support this, a number of practical measures are being taken. New plantations and community woodlots are being established, so that households have legitimate sources of wood for fuel and building material. Fuel efficient stoves are being promoted and improved fire management systems introduced. Without these measures it is possible that deforestation is merely shifted outside of the project area, leading to no actual emission reductions. Institutional capacity to sustain the REDD project is another concern. Potential buyers must be confident that carbon in forests will remain protected for the full term of the contract - a minimum of 20 years - regardless, for example, of changes in commodity prices or political leadership. In Bale, relevant government bodies have been included in all stages of the project design process. As a result, the regional government has taken on responsibility for the ongoing maintenance of the REDD project should the current state body, Oromia Forest Enterprise, no longer be able to fulfil the role. The Bale REDD project is in the early stages of project development. By engaging all relevant stakeholders and receiving input from research institutions, the project has sought to avoid the common pitfalls that have kept REDD out of carbon markets to date. As the project evolves, incorporating and meeting the diverse stakeholder needs is seen as key. If these needs can be met, Bale REDD could bring much needed finance to conserve the forests of the Bale Mountains and maintain its environmental services that support the livelihoods of millions.
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