Synergies between agriculture and the environment: vital for tackling climate change

In a technical forum held at IICA, cases in Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Mexico, and Uruguay were cited as examples of joint work on mitigation and adaptation.


Solhanlle Bonilla, from República Dominicana; David Williams, of IICA, Roberto Azofeifa, from Costa Rica; y Jeannete Cárdenas, of IICA, were some of the main speakers of the technical forum.

San Jose, Costa Rica, November 15, 2012 (IICA). Given their vulnerability to the effects of climate change, achieving synergies between the environmental and agricultural sectors is a priority for the Latin American and Caribbean countries if their mitigation and adaptation efforts are to be successful.

“Intersectoral synergies are not optional, they are obligatory,” stressed David Williams, Manager of the Agriculture, Natural Resources and Climate Change Program of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), at the end of a technical forum held in San Jose and webcast throughout the hemisphere. The speakers shared examples of such partnerships in Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Mexico, and Uruguay.

A project financed with resources from IICA’s Competitive Fund for Technical Cooperation (FonTC) has been underway in those countries since 2011. It is designed to support the generation of public goods and synergies between the ministries of Agriculture and Environment that will help reduce agriculture’s vulnerability to climate change, promote adaptation to the phenomenon, and mitigate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

“Agricultural activities produce GHG and contribute to climate change, but can also help mitigate its effects. For that reason, the environment and agriculture sectors must coordinate their actions,” remarked the coordinator of the project, Jeanette Cárdenas.

National cases

Roberto Azofeifa, of the Sustainable Production Department of the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock of Costa Rica (MAG), described the work being carried out by a number of institutions and private stakeholders to develop a Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Action (NAMA) in the coffee sector, with the support of international cooperation agencies like IICA and Germany’s GIZ.

“The global trend is toward sustainable production and consumption, so there are opportunities to secure international backing and involve companies,” he pointed out.

In Ecuador, the effort to increase family food production is also generating institutional synergies to mitigate GHG emissions, according to David Sánchez, of that country’s Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Aquaculture and Fisheries (MAGP).

The Ecuadorian government’s strategy is designed to reduce child malnutrition through the creation of agro-ecological kitchen gardens, an objective to which a number of sectors are contributing. The Ministry of Housing is constructing homes with sufficient room for vegetable gardens, health centers are providing mothers with training in nutrition, at school, children are learning about the subject, and about agriculture, ecology, and recycling, and the kitchen gardens are providing wholesome food to the members of the family group and other vulnerable children, through community initiatives.

In Mexico, the work with small population centers is key for the successful adaptation of agriculture to climate change, according to Rafael Obregón, of the National Commission for the Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity (CONABIO).

Mr. Obregón explained that at places like Selva Lacandona, in the state of Chiapas, the communities are in direct contact with nearly 80% of the natural capital, which makes it essential that they be integrated into agricultural mitigation and adaptation strategies. “These territories must get involved in sustainable development programs,” he commented.

Academia is another factor in the equation. Solhanlle Bonilla, a researcher with the Technological Institute of Santo Domingo, in the Dominican Republic, pointed out that in her country the State and universities were drafting measures together to strengthen agriculture in the face of climate change.

She cited the Yaque del Norte Model Forest region as an example of such teamwork: the Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Technology is financing the creation of a water rate system, and the Ministry of Environment is establishing the payment for environmental services model; while the Ministry of Agriculture monitors the proper management of agro-ecosystems in the area, which accounts for 14% of Dominican gross domestic product (GDP).

“Three quarters of that contribution to GDP comes from agriculture,” Bonilla added.

In Uruguay, where livestock, agriculture, and the forest sector account for 70% of exports, a project is being implemented to develop the capacity to adapt to climate change among vulnerable small farmers. Walter Oyhantcabal, of the country’s Ministry of Agriculture, presented details of the project.

Working with local networks of livestock producers, the aim of the effort is to promote the correct use of natural pastures, which sequester carbon in the soil, and to encourage the maintenance of forest cover on farms, so that carbon is sequestered in the biomass.

“We shall be presenting some of these initiatives at COP 18, to demonstrate the benefits of cooperation between the agriculture and environment sectors,” IICA’s David Williams observed.

The 18th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 18) will be taking place in Doha, Qatar, from November 26-December 7, 2012.

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