Local Action Critical to Help Farmers Adapt to Climate Change

Angela Andrade Perez is currently attending the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meeting in Bonn Germany. Today she blogs about a side event on agriculture and climate change — an event presented by CI, Humane Society International, Woods Hole Research Center, Environmental Defense Fund, Environmental Monitoring Group and the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Madagascar girl planting dry rice and beans

A girl plants dry rice and beans in Andasibe, Madagascar. CI is working in the region to promote forest-friendly agriculture in areas suffering from deforestation and erosion. (© Cristina Mittermeier)

How the UNFCCC will address agriculture — an issue not only critical to our food security, but the future of life on our planet — hangs in the balance. After two weeks of negotiations here in Bonn, country delegates were unable to resolve their differences and decided to take the issue up again at the 18th Conference of the Parties (COP 18) in Doha later this year.

Currently, 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture. Countries have been trying to decide on measures to enhance emissions reduction for several years. Progress was made last year when they decided to take the issue up on more technological grounds, giving them the opportunity to address not only agriculture’s mitigation potential, but also the need to help farmers adapt their practices in the face of climate change impacts. These impacts include increased frequency of droughts and flooding, and rising temperatures that are damaging the watersheds and other ecosystem services that sustainable agriculture depends on.

Earlier this week, I participated in a side event on the opportunities for supporting mitigation, adaptation and social goals in relation to agriculture in the climate change negotiations. Back home in Colombia, I work on many different elements of adaptation; figuring out how to support farmers in a changing climate is an essential piece of the puzzle. At the event, I discussed two CI efforts: my work with partners in Colombia in the Chingaza Massif highland ecosystems, and work that Conservation South Africa is doing in Namaqualand.

Through the Integrated National Adaptation Project in Colombia, we are working with local farmers to:

  • Promote agroforestry, soil erosion control, home gardens and farm management plans to increase local agriculture resilience;
  • Raise community awareness about the need to adapt in the face of changing temperatures and water availability;
  • Use new technologies like rainwater harvesting, drip irrigation and wastewater treatment and recycling to increase resilience; and
  • Restore important high-altitude grassland systems that collect and filter massive amounts of water later used for agriculture and other human needs.

A continent away, South Africa’s Succulent Karoo is a semi-arid biodiversity hotspot that is particularly vulnerable to water scarcity, which will only to be exacerbated by climate change. Conservation South Africa is working to:

  • Reduce climate change impacts and vulnerability by restoring wetlands and grazing lands within catchment areas;
  • Implement sustainable livestock management actions, including removing invasive alien plant species;
  • Reduce soil-damaging techniques by working with small-scale and commercial farmers through a stewardship approach; and
  • Engage with local communities and government authorities to develop policies and plans that support an ecosystem-based approach to adaptation and sustainable development.

In order to effectively reduce vulnerability to and impacts of climate change, it is critical that adaptation actions are implemented at the farm level. The main goal should be not only to ensure food security, but also to maintain rural landscapes in order to guarantee provision of ecosystem services and the well-being of local populations. This holistic approach will help to reduce secondary impacts that come when a land is too degraded to support its people, such as decreased standards of living for small farmers and migration.

Adaptation and mitigation efforts must be implemented in an integrated manner. In addition to developing indicators to measure climate change resilience at the farm level, other supporting measures have to be taken into account, such as participative research, capacity-building, land-use planning and institutional development — especially at the local level. National policies must consider small-scale agriculture, especially in areas that provide services such as water provision and regulation. For example, development in watersheds needs to take into consideration the importance of the watershed’s services for farmers downstream. Interlinkages between rural and urban areas are critical in effective agricultural adaptation and have to be considered.

Despite the current impasse in the negotiations, I am hopeful that discussions under the UNFCCC will continue to evolve. They should include the need to support local farmers while taking into account the larger systems that the farmers rely upon. This approach will ensure that farmers’ actions reduce agriculture’s impact on our global climate, and that the farmers in turn are more resilient to climate impacts.

Angela Andrade Perez is the environmental policy coordinator and manager of the Integrated National Adaptation Project (INAP) at CI-Colombia.


  1. Pin Oak Hill says

    Great information and presented well. It is pretty hard to think about how the world will end up if we don’t change but also very necessary. Lets leave a great place for future generations.

  2. Pingback: Local Action Critical to Help Farmers Adapt to Climate Change : CLIMATE HIMALAYA

  3. jose reynaldo corrales says

    We support all project direct to food production..at preent we are trying to come up with a massive vegetable production program in the Upland focused on idle lands and lands dependent on fainfall. similar activity is to collect all palay stalks or hay in the rice fields and process these into compost fertilizer..NO TO BURNING OF HAYS IN THE FIELDS.

  4. leonardo saenz says

    Dear Angela,

    I think you are very right – effective adaptation on the ground will have to take large scale as well as local actions. The issues of improving the efficiency of water use as you point out must be at the heart of adaptation approaches to improve food security particularly in Africa, where low economic input means tha natural resource allocation must play a more prominent role. Those issues integrated to yield improvements through better fertilization approaches, as this blog of the CGIAR indicates are part of the solution, improving the productivity of the existing agricultural lands and reducing the pressure upon natural systems that while help us adapta to climate change, also provide a series of important co-benefits http://wle.cgiar.org/blogs/2013/02/07/african-agriculture-does-size-really-matter/

    Abrazo, Leo

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *