Central American farmers are now more resilient to climate change
In recent years, the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) has been working in Latin America on generating evidence on the implementation of climate-smart agriculture (CSA) options, as well as to understand the impact of these solutions on the livelihoods of small-scale farmers in the region. This evidence has allowed us to study the most important interactions, synergies, and trade-offs between climate change and agriculture in order to fulfill CSA pillars in rural communities, namely adaptation to climate change, reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and increase in productivity. These data are monitored and evaluated in Climate-Smart Villages (CSV).
We have now completed the monitoring and evaluation of the CSA practices and technologies implemented in Santa Rita CSV in Honduras and the Olopa CSV in Guatemala during 2019. Through a series of videos, Jesús David Martínez, CSV Coordinator for CCAFS Latin America, explains the most relevant results in terms of the adoption of CSA practices, the effects of the implementation on food security and the livelihoods of agricultural household, farmers' perception of climate events, and access to climate and financial information services, among others. These categories also included a gender perspective to analyze the impact of implementation on the lives of rural women.
How have climate-smart practices improved the livelihoods of farmers?
In 2019, 98% of the households in CSV Olopa, implemented CSA practices, achieving growth in agricultural production (between 56% and 86%), additional income generation for families (between 82% and 100%), improved access (between 85% and 100%) and food diversity (between 74 and 100%), as well as a decrease in the vulnerability of production systems to climate (between 91% and 100%).
For CSV Santa Rita, 80% of the households headed by men implemented CSA practices, while 58% of the households headed by women did so. Thanks to the implementation of these practices, CSV farmers perceived an increase in agricultural production (between 45% and 88%), the generation of additional income for families (between 67% and 100%), improved access to food (between 89% and 100%) and food diversity (between 84% and 100%), and a decrease in the vulnerability of production systems to climate.
Our partners in the communities of Olopa and Santa Rita
At CSV Olopa, CCAFS works together with the local partner Asociación Regional Campesina Ch'orti' (ASORECH). For the development of this monitoring and evaluation, interviews were conducted in 272 households in the communities of Valle Nuevo, Tituque Tishmuntique, Nochán and Prensa Centro, and Tuticopote caserío Centro.
At CSV Santa Rita, we work together with the local partner Comisión de Acción Social Menonita (CASM) who implemented the monitoring activities in 143 households in the communities of Tierra Fría I, La Casita, Villanueva, Aldea Nueva and Queseras.
How are climate-smart practices increasing agricultural production?
Thanks to the implementation of CSA practices in CSV Santa Rita, the main source of food for households is the farm itself (74%) and the income of these households is also generated on the farm (81%). It was found that droughts, rains, and strong winds were the climatic events that affected agricultural production the most. To cope with these events, farmers reduced household expenses, but also made use of their savings and sought other sources of income. Finally, 90% of farmers reported having access to short-term (daily/weekly) and seasonal weather information. It is important to note that more than 75% of the farmers reported being able to use climate information.
In CSV Olopa, the main source of food for households is the market (82%) and the second source is on-farm production (18%), but it is on-farm that most of the households' agricultural income is generated (51%). Again, droughts, rains, and strong winds were the climatic events that had the greatest impact on agricultural income in CSV Olopa, with 71% of households affected. To address these negative effects, farmers resorted to seeking other sources of income (33%), reducing household expenses (27%), and switching from on-farm to off-farm work (13%). In terms of access to climate information, 100% of farmers reported access to both short-term (daily/weekly) and seasonal forecasts and more than 70% of farmers reported being able to use climate information to make decisions about their crops.
How have Climate-smart practices enabled greater participation of women in agricultural decisions?
Regarding the effects of the implementation of CSA practices on gender indicators, it was found that in CSV Santa Rita between 33% and 67% of women make decisions on the implementation of CSA practices, together with their partners, unlike men, who said they make decisions autonomously. It is important to note that both women and men reported participating in decision making and controlling the income generated by the CSA practices. At the same time, the CSV Santa Rita monitoring report shows that women's capacity to use climate information and the percentage of women's actual participation in the implementation of CSA practices must be increased.
In the case of CSV Olopa, it was found that in general terms women make more decisions autonomously than men do; a similar case occurs in decision making about income control, as both men and women said that they did have a say on this subject. One of the challenges identified in the monitoring of CSV Olopa was to identify technologies that would reduce the time spent by women implementing CSA practices.
How could Climate-smart practices increase the resilience of farmers to climate change?
In CSV Santa Rita, farmers stated that the implementation of CSA practices has had a positive effect on the performance and production of their agricultural production systems. In Santa Rita, there is great potential to promote the autonomous expansion of practices and thus generate greater income and explore new markets for products and surpluses.
Meanwhile, in CSV Olopa, it was found that it is necessary to continue with the implementation of sustainable, land-intensive alternatives that generate high value. It is also important to carry on with the implementation of practices that allow farmers to diversify their diets since barriers to access food persist. However, farmers said that the implementation of CSA practices has had a positive effect on the productivity and performance of their agricultural systems.
The communities of Olopa and Santa Rita now have more elements than before to face the health and climate crisis thanks to the strengthening of CSA skills and the use of agro-climatic information for decision making. However, the post COVID-19 recovery will not be an easy process, which is why we need to continue to work together with rural families, our local partners ASORECH and CASM and other institutions committed to inclusive and climate-resilient rural development so Olopa and Santa Rita can support processes towards a more sustainable recovery.
Deissy Martínez Barón, Regional Program Leader for CCAFS Latin America