Cauca builds momentum for scaling up climate-smart agriculture in Colombia

Representatives from Colombia's ministries of agriculture and environment and from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) joined local actors in Cauca Climate-Smart Village. Photo: Alexandra Popescu (CCAFS)
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A wide range of institutional actors gather in Cauca to immerse themselves in climate-smart agriculture

The level of knowledge in the community is impressive, as well as how the farmers exchange that knowledge, I think Cauca’s Environmental Authority has the capacity to take this experience to other regions and we should take advantage of the funds for climate change adaptation that Colombia has available.”

Mariana Rojas Laserna, Technical Director for Colombia's Ministry of Environment and Sustainability

Waldina Bermudez’s lawn is buzzing this morning, and it's getting warmer by the minute. In the shadow of the tent installed next to her house, dozens of guests, familiar and unfamiliar faces in Cauca Climate-Smart Village (CSV), start taking their seats for breakfast. Everybody seems to be here: from international organizations to national, regional and local authorities, and farmers from the municipalities of Argelia and Morales who have come to exchange the lessons they’ve learnt and understand how to bring the CSV process to their communities.

The CSV model, built and strengthened in Cauca over the past four years by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) and Ecohabitats Foundation, is going big. Representatives from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), from Colombia’s Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Environment and from the Department of Cauca are here. They want to acknowledge the bridges that have been built between the community and the institutions, how much climate-smart agriculture (CSA) has grown and what it means now for the farmers, as well as what’s needed ahead to replicate the model across the department and the country.

Liliana Paz and Waldina Bermudez explain the workings of farm adaptation plans, the dawn of the CCAFS-Ecohabitats collaboration and the sparking of the community’s interest in adapting to climate change challenges. Cauca’s Environmental Authority (CRC) is no stranger to thisYesid Duque, its Executive Director, has been involved in the project and understands the importance of linking efforts at local level with the institutional powers that can support the sustainability of these efforts and propel them across levels.

The talks move from the table to the field, led by Luis Ortega, co-founder of Ecohabitats and a key character in Cauca CSV. Alfredo Chara, the go-to person in Cauca for weather measurements and expertise, runs the visitors through the usage of the weather stations installed and explains the increasing climate variability that farmers have had to deal with over the last few years. We then head through the coffee bushes to the back of the house to the bicycle water pump, an essential tool and safety net for farmers’ water needs in times of drought. Albeiro Rivera and Julio Bermudez, the leading authorities on this in the community, give us the basics about the pump, while Yesid Duque jumps on and pedals for demonstration.

This is the way to adapt to climate change, we speak a lot on paper but adaptation must be done in the territory and I am very pleased that the local authorities are so committed to making that change. Our ministry will take care of sharing the lessons from this visit and look for international cooperation allies to help us take CSA to the next level.”  

Nelson Lozado, Climate Change Coordinator for Colombia’s Ministry for Agriculture and Rural Development.

After a final look at the finca’s newly installed solar panels, which produce enough energy throughout the day to light the entire property, we drive further up to Daniela Campo’s tomato greenhouse. She took charge of the projectwith support from Ecohabitatsto diversify the crops her family grows and to save money to fund her university studies. We gather in the organic fertilizer factory set up next to the greenhouse to discuss how to achieve clean crops of cherry tomatoes, and the importance of food security for families in Cauca.

A group of young boys joins us, all suited up in black and white uniforms, with hip haircuts, just out of their high school for the day. They’re very much involved in community work and the climate-smart agriculture initiative seems to have changed their minds about their futuresthey all seem to have switched to wanting to pursue a career in environmental engineering and other fields connected to agriculture.

The final step of the visit was at the Danubio Azul kindergarden. Photo: Alexandra Popescu (CCAFS)

Our final stop is at the Danubio Azul kindergarden, where Adriana Mosquera introduces us to the group of under-5 year old children, who are always happy to have guests. A new garden has been built by the school with the kids, who by now are no strangers to how they should take care of their vegetables and also eat them. “Starting work in the community with children and young people is key to building a long-term sustainable agriculture,” says Ana Maria Loboguerrero, Regional Program Leader for CCAFS Latin America. “It always warms my heart to see how much things change for the better with every visit we make.”

"It’s impressive how Cauca CSV, through its initiatives, has succeeded in bringing together such a varied range of actors who are so engaged in taking the initiative further,” says Adriana Martin of FAO in Colombia. “This knowledge exchange is vital for strengthening institutional ties and the climate-smart processes. We are by nature partners with CCAFS and we will work together to find new ways to support these initiatives in the long run."