A new course for professionals that work in agricultural development in the Dry Corridor of Guatemala aims to scale climate change adaptation approaches and practices.

Guatemala is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change and variability in Latin America. In the region known as the "Dry Corridor", the “canícula” (reduction of precipitation during the summer) coincides with a critical phase in agricultural production; and in recent years, this reduction in precipitation has begun earlier, has lasted longer, and/or has been more intense.

During 2020, in addition to the health and socioeconomic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the region has faced extreme rainfall, with significant impacts on food production and sources of employment, which has particularly affected small-scale farming families.

In order to support a sustainable recovery from the impacts of COVID-19, in the context of climate variability, the second edition of the seminar "Climate-Smart Villages" (CSV) is being held. This seminar aims to strengthen the technical capacity and human resources dedicated to rural development in the Dry Corridor of Guatemala for the development of CSV in this region. This training program is the result of the alliance between the Centro Universitario de Oriente (CUNORI, of the University Of San Carlos, Guatemala) and the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).

Both institutions aim to scale up approaches and practices for climate change adaptation in agriculture and water management in the Dry Corridor of Guatemala, one of the area’s most vulnerable to increased climate variability in Central America.

Successful first edition of the training course

From the first edition of the course held in 2019, 30 professionals from 14 governmental and non-governmental organizations in the region graduated. Most had bachelor's degrees or engineering degrees in different fields. The first edition combined didactic activities in intensive classroom sessions, with presentations by instructors from more than 15 local organizations. This second edition involved 36 professionals from 14 governmental and non-governmental organizations in the region.

Challenges of the second edition of the course

The second edition maintains the four modules proposed in the first edition, focusing on: climate change adaptation practices and technologies; climate information management; collaboration and financing opportunities for adaptation initiatives; and design and planning of adaptation initiatives.

The design of the second edition, which began in November 2020 and will end in March 2021, was updated in response to two challenges: the crisis of COVID19 and the greater inclusion of the CSV approach in the work of local institutions.


Figure 1. Preferences for water, soil and crop management practices and technologies among students, module 1 (FNS - food and nutrition security, PICSA - Participatory Integrated Climate Services for Agriculture, LTACs - Local Technical Agroclimatic Committees)

To respond to the challenge of the health crisis, the entire diploma course is now taught virtually, combining both synchronous and asynchronous activities, and didactic presentations from local, national, and international organizations that help ground the concepts with practical examples and lessons from their experience. This has required a review of the program, the teaching methodology, and the use of the virtual learning platform.

To respond to the second challenge, the selection of participants favored the participation of extensionists and field technicians, who expect to implement what they have learned in the course with farming families from different rural communities of the region.

In addition, several actions were taken based on the lessons learned from the first version, such as the establishment of previous institutional commitments and the selection of CSV practices and technologies according to the reality of each organization, to further facilitate their inclusion in ongoing projects or institutional work.

Preliminary results of surveys of student preferences for CSV practices and methodologies (see Figures 1 and 2 respectively) indicate a strong emphasis on water and soil management practices and technologies, and on local resource-based information management practices that support organizational and community preparedness and decision-making.


Figure 2. Information management practices preferred by students, module 2 (FNS - food and nutrition security, PICSA - Participatory Integrated Climate Services for Agriculture, LTACs - Local Technical Agroclimatic Committees)

Other approaches implemented in the Dry Corridor

Some examples of other approaches that have been scaled up in the Central American country are the Local Technical Agroclimatic Committees that are implemented in the provinces of El Progreso, Zacapa, and Chiquimula (in collaboration with CUNORI, the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food of Guatemala - MAGA, the World Food Program - WFP, among others) and the CSV Olopa (in collaboration with the Asociación Regional Campesina Ch'orti' - ASORECH).

Future challenges

The participation in the first and second units of the second edition of the diploma course, held in November and December 2020, leads us to believe that the use of virtual training spaces is a good decision not only for this year's situation but also for future scenarios with increasingly scarce resources.

However, it also presents us with new challenges in attracting and keeping participants' attention, since formal and non-formal platforms, as well as other interactive tools, have been used to maintain participants' interest.

These issues will be integrated into the subsequent follow-up of the course's results, to see if scaling up at the organizational level is taking place, and what factors are restricting or supporting the scaling.

Claudia Bouroncle is an independent consultant for the Alliance Bioversity International and CIAT. José R. García is a professor at CUNORI-USAC. Jesús David Martínez is the CSV Coordinator for CCAFS Latin America. Anna Muller is Research Leader at the Alliance Bioversity International and CIAT. Carlos Eduardo Navarro is the Coordinator of the Agroclimas II project. Víctor Sandoval is a collaborator at CUNORI-USAC. Ronnie Vernooy is a researcher at the Alliance Bioversity International and CIAT.