In Mexico and Central America, coffee is the backbone of thousands of families’ livelihoods and contributes significantly to countries’ agricultural economies. For example, in Nicaragua and Honduras, two of the region’s poorest countries, coffee brings in a fifth to a quarter of export revenues. But research indicates that climate change will badly affect coffee growing in the region and that ecosystems will suffer. Unless major efforts are made to strengthen people’s ability to adapt, there will likely be heavy economic losses across the coffee supply chain.
Research led by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) shows that coffee is highly sensitive to climate change. By 2050, because temperature will rise, coffee will have to shift to areas around 300 metres above where it is currently grown. This shift will push farmers at lower altitudes out of coffee production and put pressure on forests and natural resources at higher altitudes. Areas suitable for cocoa are also likely to shift by 2050, although not quite so dramatically. Cocoa is a promising alternative to coffee at low altitudes because it requires high temperatures and fetches higher prices.
“Our research alerts decision-makers to changes in climate change that may impact the lives of millions of farmers in Latin America.”Peter Läderach, Central America and Caribbean coordinator of the Decision Analysis and Policy (DAPA) Program, CIAT.
Scientists presented their findings to government, the private sector and civil society in Nicaragua to raise awareness of the threats that changes in climate pose to coffee and cocoa production. CIAT researchers took part in roundtables on coffee and cocoa, and in discussions with donors and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. The Government of Nicaragua has taken account of research findings in developing national adaptation plans, and ministers and presidential advisors of the president also use the findings.
In 2013, as a direct result of CCAFS research, Nicaragua launched a National Adaptation Plan for agriculture. CIAT’s impact analyses and engagement in private and public sector policy meetings contributed to the plan, which includes measures for adapting smallholder coffee farmers’ livelihoods to climate change and diversifying coffee-based incomes as priorities.
The plan attracted major investment for adapting coffee and cocoa production to changes in climate. The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has provided USD 24 million to help coffee and cocoa farmers adapt to changes in climate. The IFAD investment will provide technical assistance to help poor smallholder producers adapt, strengthen public institutions and policies, and improve weather information systems. An important part of the project will be working with the government to provide incentives for farmers to take measures to adapt.