Targeting Investment and Research: CCAFS Identifies Vulnerable Populations to Climate Change in Latin America
The program on Decision and Policy Analysis (DAPA) at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT by its acronym in Spanish) and El Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza (CATIE), with the support of The CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), developed a climate change vulnerability analysis for countries that were prioritized within the CCAFS framework in Latin America. The principal objective of the analysis was to define a comprehensive and robust baseline of criteria on vulnerability in agriculture and water supply for human consumption at the municipal level in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Colombia and the Acre state in Brazil.
Previous experience of CATIE and CIAT in the application of this approach on national and local level in agriculture, conservation and ecosystems services in Central America were key to achieve the results, which were presented on September 11th 2013 in the workshop “Regional Research Strategy for Latin America on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security – CCAFS” (see article in Spanish here).
The project used the concept of vulnerability proposed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as a basis for analysis. The IPCC describes vulnerability as “The degree to which a system is susceptible or unable to cope with adverse effects of climate change, including climate variability and extreme events. Vulnerability is a function of the character, magnitude and rate of climate variation to which a system is exposed, its sensitivity and its adaptive capacity.”
Initially, a vulnerability analysis was performed on country level (20 countries), identifying a more general view of the region. Subsequently, the analysis was performed on sub-national levels for the countries involved in the project, considering as a baseline the administrative units (municipalities) represented in in agricultural and population census data. Based on the extracted census data indicators were developed to describe vulnerability to climate change.
The three elements defined by the IPCC to measure vulnerability were used for this study: exposure, sensitivity and adaptive capacity. The exposure of the agricultural sector was defined as the percentage of changes in principal crops in each municipality due to climate conditions for 2030 for the emission scenario A1B, weighted for the percentage of area cultivated in the respective municipality. Sensibility of the agricultural sector was defined as the dependency of the rural population on agriculture, which was measured by a single indicator: percentage of the economically active population dedicated to agricultural production. Finally, the adaptive capacity of the agricultural sector was defined as a process based on three conditions: 1) the satisfaction of basic needs (e. g. housing and education); 2) the disposition of resources for innovation (e.g. technical support); and 3) the capacity for action (e.g. loans).
The total of the elements mentioned above determined the degree of vulnerability of the agriculture sector in each municipality, and as a summary for each country. It also determined the degree of capacity of current livelihood strategies in agriculture to cope with changes.
During the development of the project several challenges were encountered related to, firstly, the lack of information needed to construct the indicators, and secondly, the out-of-date status of some census data. Nevertheless, it was possible to discriminate differences at the municipal level with the scale of work and sources of information used. Agricultural and population censuses are valuable sources of information for this type of analysis; the results can also be taken as a starting point for prioritizing areas of work within research projects.
The most vulnerable countries, mainly in Central America, are characterized by their high reliance on staple crop production such as maize and beans (determined as major crops by production data from the agricultural census), as well as cassava, rice, coffee and sugar cane. These crops are often depended upon as the sole sources of family nutrition and income. In the regions identified there is also an increased production of agro-industrial crops such as oil palm.