Editor’s note: U.N. climate negotiations continue this week in Marrakech as the world’s nations discuss how they will work together to fight and adapt to climate change impacts already affecting the lives of people around the globe. With livelihoods directly dependent on reliable weather patterns, farmers are among the first and hardest hit; programs like the Rupununi Innovation Fund in southern Guyana, which helps farmers access funding to boost their lands’ productivity, are essential to help them build resilience.
In the foothills of the Kanuku Mountains, where some of the world’s most intact forests and cleanest rivers meet grasslands that are home to jaguars, harpy eagles and giant anteaters, is a 1-hectare (2.5-acre) traditional family farm owned by Muacir and Emaline Baretto. Their 1,500-person indigenous community, St. Ignatius, is located in southern Guyana’s Rupununi region on the border with Brazil. The nearby town is a one-hour flight or a 14-24 hour (depending on the season) drive from Georgetown, the country’s capital — and it couldn’t feel further away.
Members of the Wapishana indigenous group, the Barettos grow food to feed themselves and their extended family. They also sell surplus produce, both fresh (fruits and vegetables) and processed (cassava byproducts such as farine and casareep, and traditional hot pepper powder known as chicitai). In addition, Emaline grows cotton, which she spins to make Wapishana hammocks for sale locally and sometimes overseas.
The Barettos use a combination of traditional and more conventional farming methods. Their farm contains a range of plants and trees, which helps make it very resilient to pests and diseases. But even their best efforts can’t make their farm immune to misfortune.