A cross-sectoral project against land degradation caught the attention of a group of Latin American researchers promoting agriculture’s adaptation to climate change.
San Jose, May 18, 2015 (IICA). At a meeting in Costa Rica convened by the IICA-EUROCLIMA project, agricultural and environmental experts from 16 countries in Latin America discussed and validated actions for dealing with land degradation, desertification and drought in the region.
During a tour of the Jesus María river basin in the Central Pacific region of the country, researchers and international professionals confirmed the importance of the aforementioned actions and interacted with producers and sharing their experiences in mitigating and adapting agriculture to climate change. The encounter was sponsored by the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) and the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Union.
IICA and JRC are working together to implement the “Sustainable agriculture, food security and climate change” component of EUROCLIMA, a program of the European Commission geared toward Latin America.
In addition to touring the field, specialists from the 16 countries also shared the progress of four studies they are carrying out as part of the project, which seek to boost regional cooperation in the face of climate change.
The studies deal with vulnerability to drought and land degradation, the implementation of a system for monitoring and evaluating droughts in Central America and Cuba, the creation of an inventory of rainwater harvesting systems in arid Latin American regions, and the effect of drought and land degradation on migration patterns of rural communities in the region.
“We live a key moment in time for reaching binding agreements with respect to mitigation and adaptation of agriculture to climate change, a topic of great importance to Latin America because of its ties to food and nutritional security and the quality of life for inhabitants of this region,” stated Diego Montenegro, Director of Management and Regional Integration of IICA.
“The alliance with IICA makes it possible to explore options in topics that can be greatly beneficial to Latin American countries, such as rainwater harvesting,” said Paulo Barbosa, JRC representative.
Launched in 2014, the IICA-EUROCLIMA project has a budget of 1.5 million Euros. The participating countries are Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela.
River basin in recovery
Agriculture and livestock farming are the two predominant economic activities in the Jesús María river basin, but the area faces issues including an over-exploitation of land, water shortages and migration of young people to urban areas.
The Advisory Commission on Soil Degradation (CADETI) of Costa Rica has been coordinating an intervention project in that area since 2013, to increase forest coverage, manage and preserve the land, improve the infiltration and protection of water sources, and improve the quality of life for local communities.
Several public entities are participating in this initiative, including the National Institute of Agricultural Technology (INTA), an agency of the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAG); and the National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC), an agency of the Ministry of Environment and Energy (MINAE).
The cross-sectoral nature of the project captured the interest of international specialists, and also encouraged producers to become involved in intervention activities.
Spanning almost 38,000 hectares, the basin has a slope rising from zero to 1,541 meters above sea level. The basin’s steep slope, combined with meteorological events and human activities, has caused problems such as land erosion, a loss of soil fertility, a reduction in the size of forests that protect sources of water, and the sedimentation of mangroves.
Furthermore, like other Pacific regions of Central America, the Jesus María river basin is currently facing climate variability linked to the El Niño phenomenon, such as high temperatures and rain shortages, which could affect the production of staple grains and livestock.
“The consequences of El Niño are foreseeable and increasingly recognized; they are common problems across various countries, which is why solutions must be shared,” stated Manuel Jiménez, Policy, Trade and Agribusiness Specialist at IICA.
According to Renato Jiménez, coordinator of the project led by CADETI, land degradation in the Costa Rican Pacific region is highest at this basin. In addition to putting the brake on it, they also hope to launch the use of digital cartography and the development of socioeconomic indicators for the area, so that the project may become a model for land recovery elsewhere in Latin America.
“The adaptation of agriculture to climate change in Latin America must not only be reactive, but also well planned. The IICA-EUROCLIMA project hopes to function as a bridge between Latin American countries, facilitating knowledge exchange and implementation of effective measures that would allow the region to face new challenges in a sustainable way,” stated David Williams, Principal Specialist for Resilience and Comprehensive Risk Management in Agriculture for IICA.