Agriculture is and continues to be the engine to development in Haiti. It serves as a tool to preserve domestic food security and is instrumental to Haiti’s economic recovery and social stability. Undisputedly, agriculture is the most vulnerable sector to climate change. Vulnerability however does not only extend to vagaries of climate, but also the accumulate challenges pose by soil erosion, highly varying soil capacity and land prevalences. The potential impact of climate change on agricultural crop production therefore varies spatially and depends on crop specific biophysical constraints. This indicates that for Haiti, where agriculture use spans over 1.7 million hectares (more than 60% of the country) understanding the interplay between climate and the production of the country’s valued crops is of utmost importance.
The collaborative efforts between the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) are geared towards this objective. In 2010, CRS and CIAT joint forces to assess the state of mango and coffee in Haiti in order to provide recommendations to improve current production quality and quantity. Their work was directly aimed at contributing to ongoing long-term strategic investment in these value chains by predicting and validating current and future suitability of coffee, mango and diversifications crops in Haiti.
Climate Impacts on Agriculture Processes
Crops’ growth and maturity are highly influenced by temperature. Increase temperature, particularly high night time temperature (> 18 °C), and drought conditions have substantial effects on biomass production and the reproductive stages of plants and crops.
The Global Circulation Model (GCM) reveals that temperature in Haiti will increase an average of 0.9°C in 2020 and 1.8°C by 2050. Average temperature for the hottest month will increase from 30.9°C to 32.9°C by 2050 and the driest month is projected to get 10% less rainfall. This increase in temperature translates to greater vagaries in climate and more seasonal precipitation. Decline in precipitation together with increasing minimum, mean and maximum temperatures can cause water deficits due to higher evapotranspiration rates of plants triggering soil water deficits and heat stresses. Impacts on crop productivity will thus be determined by plants’ susceptibility to increase temperature.
Biophysical impacts of Coffee and Mango
Coffee and Mango are two of Haiti’s most vital value chains. Economically they represent major foreign exchange prospects for the country, and socially it is a major source of livelihood. In the case of coffee, changing climatic conditions could lower the quality and yields of current coffee producing regions in Haiti. Currently, the altitude of coffee plantation in Haiti ranges between 400 meters in the North to 1,300 meters in the South. Vagaries in temperature and precipitation patterns however will limit the areas suitable for coffee and reduce areas which currently possess high suitability. In lower altitudes zones (up to 1200 meters above sea level) Bioclimatic model (BC) predicts a lost in suitability for coffee. But higher altitudes will gain suitability with a maximum suitability between 1500m.a.s.l. and 1800m.a.s.l. in 2050. Given the significance of coffee to Haiti’s economy, adaptation efforts is critical to curb economic losses that may result from decline in crop suitability.
Mango on the other hand will remain a highly suitable crop in many regions of Haiti despite temperature increase. BC model predicts minimal changes from excellent suitability for mango to that of very suitable. Additionally, there will be a shift geographically from concentrated areas close the coast to inland areas with higher altitude. Developing the mango value chain is highly recommended given that vagaries in climate do not pose much threat. Improvement in this sector should therefore focus on organizational and marketing development of existing collaborative networks within the industry.
Climate Change: Diversification Options for Haiti
In exploring diversification options for Haiti the Ecocrop (EC) model was used to assess diversification options for coffee farmers. The (EC) model reveals that high suitability exists in Haiti for Cocoa and is not predicted to be affected by changes from long term climate patterns. Other areas to explore diversification efforts include sorghum, ground nut or peanut and white and yellow yams. Despite temperature increase suitability of sorghum will increase in Haiti between 4 and 8% in available land with no or low limited soil capacity by 2050. Peanut and White and yellow yams will also experience increase in suitability.
Commercial opportunities therefore exist in these areas with the possibility of minimum losses caused by climate vagaries. This is particularly true for cocoa where increase in global demand for cocoa presents a valued economic venture worth pursuing.
Adaptation and Mitigation Efforts
Both adaptation and mitigation efforts can and should be taken within Haiti’s agriculture sector. Agroforestry system such as coffee plays an integral role in providing ecosystem service. Consequently decrease in suitability of coffee will not only impact its significance to commodity and cash income generator for small holder farmers, but may also have ramifications for the environmental services it provides, such as soil cover, carbon sequestration, biodiversity and water storage. Maintaining these vital environmental services with a different agroforestry system is crucial.
Macroeconomic efforts should also play an integral role in adaptation efforts in Haiti. In areas where suitability will increase, strategic investment is recommended as an area of priority. In areas which will see a loss in suitability, targeted strategies such as irrigation and change to more drought resident varieties should be explored. And for areas that are predicted to suffer from significant suitability, diversification is essential for adaptation efforts.
The synergies that exist between climate and agriculture along with constraints to soil and land pose varying challenges to crop yield in Haiti. Proactive actions should be taken to ensure sustainable agricultural practices. The result will be a more vibrant agriculture sector which ensures national food security and enhances development.
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Prediction of the Impact of climate change on Coffee and Mango Growing areas in Haiti