How to fight the Climate Change, one Farm at a Time

von 14 lubica

The phrase “100% Pura Vida” appeared on Eiffel Tower on 30 November 2015 to celebrate Costa Rica’s record running on 100 percent renewable energy for 255 days that year.

All around the world, we can see how climate change is already affecting lives of people. In Latin America, it has been multiplied by the El Niño phenomenon in recent years. As a response to a crisis, in my rural community in Hojancha, Costa Rica, the Ministry of Agriculture (MAG) provided new funds to combat extreme drought experienced in the aftermath of El Niño in 2014-15. Yet local farmers struggle to adjust their agricultural practices to changing weather patterns, extreme events and irregular rainfalls.

The National Meteorological Institutes predicted another extreme dry summer with record high temperatures. The last few years were reported as the hottest in the history. Indeed Guanacaste, the driest province in Costa Rica feels like a boiling pot of heat and sun these days. Climate change is the story we are living everyday, often say local people on the streets, hiding under the trees to cool down.

From Paris to Costa Rica
In order to face climate change threats, the Governments unite every year at the United Nations Framework on Climate Change (UNFCCC) conference in order to adopt new goals and policies on how to remain the global temperature below 2°C or 1,5° Celsius.i This has been the threshold set by the scientific community as necessary to avoid dangerous climate change.

Since Paris Conference in December 2015, several months have passed. How are Costa Rica and the international community responding to the adopted 'Paris Agreement' which calls on the Governments to fulfill their 'Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs)' in order to limit global warming?

Just last week, Papua New Guinea became the first country to finalize its National Climate Plan under the Paris Agreement.ii Thank to this step, the country moved from 'intended' nationally determined contributions to political commitments and set an official climate plan under the Parisian umbrella. Other countries are slowly following the lead. At the same time we are also seeing grassroot steps on the road from Paris.

Costa Rica's Intentions
Costa Rica also adopted its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions in the run-up for Paris. In this document, they declared to become 'a laboratory for de-carbonizing the economy and committed to carbon emissions' reduction of 44% of GHG of a Business As Usual scenario and a reduction of 25% of emissions compared to 2012 values.

Total net emissions of GHG projected for Costa Rica 2012-2050 Source: Costa Rican INDC report submitted in September 2015

Although last year, the country pushed back its target to become carbon neutral further into the future, it still remains ambitious to be a leader in decarbonizing. In 2015 more than 99% of its electricity was generated through renewable energy (mainly hydropower).

On the Road to Climate Change Resilience
While policymakers focus on international negotiations, financing mechanisms and lawmaking in order to create the framework for translating these goals into the practice, it is important that companies and individuals also take a leading role in climate change mitigation and adaptation. Peter Druckner said, 'If you can't measure it, you can't manage it.' Costa Rica with its carbon neutral certification process mainly for businesses and companies and tools how to measure carbon footprint is moving in the right direction to build its climate change resilience as people and society. I think, we need to measure our ecological footprint and individual carbon emissions in order to reduce them. Costa Rica promoted such approach also at the Paris conference calling on countries to measure carbon dioxide emission per person.iii

Farmers participating at the initial workshop to introduce the project of climate change adaptation

Climate Change is interlinked with food security in Latin America
In Hojancha, UNAFOR, the National Agroforestry Union, received funding from Fundecooperaci—n based on the Climate Change Adaptation Fund to start adaptation projects and build integral farms. UNAFOR brings technical expertise and financing to small farms and families in order to 'measure and manage climate change' on a local scale.

In Latin America, local agriculture, forestry and land use are considered crucial for economy and food security.iv The environmental damages that climate change may cause are not only inevitable but also irreversible. The implications for the economy, quality of life and access to natural resources and ecosystem services are serious.v Particularly, the farmers in this region are conscious about the changes in temperature, moisture and rainfall as their crop yields are getting lower, soil conditions worse and water more and more scarce.

One of the water reservoirs installed in Hojancha Canton - © UNAFOR

UNAFOR is trying to embrace the vulnerability of local farmers. We go to the farms, diagnose their practices, production, land and water resources, soil conditions and talk to the farmers about their vision for the future. Among other actions, we try to help improve the water supply on the farms while protecting the natural water springs from pollution. Just before the rain season, new water tanks and water reservoirs are being installed to make sure that they will capture and store the rainwater to be used during the dry season. Water is essential to help local farmers continue in their production all year round.

Farmers live the climate change story, embracing own vulnerability, facing this new reality, and together with UNAFOR and MAG try to do the best to become more resilient for future challenges.

Cooperation between the Ministry, NGOs, private business and farmers – the key to fighting climate change with local resilience

One farm at a time
In Hojancha, we are already learning our first lessons from the project; a strong cooperation between the Ministry, NGOs, private sector and farmers is important to avoid irreversible damages to the environment.

The project starts with 20-40 farms but expects to have a multiplying effect as neighboring farmers are seeing the benefits of many adaptation practices. All farmers need to be active, motivated and committed to use the provided resources to implement the vision of integral sustainable farming.

Thus good mitigation and adaptation policies are implemented on the ground with a vision to build more resilient farms for the future. While international organizations play a key role in bringing all countries together to learn from each other's similar practical experiences and develop tools applicable across the regions, we as a community are aware that climate change is being fought on every single farm.

v ibid.


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