No news is good news they say. According to the online Cambridge dictionary it is used “to make someone feel less worried when they have not received information about someone or something, because if something bad had happened, they would have been told about it”: We haven’t heard anything about climate change and cocoa today, but I suppose no news is good news.

DAPA’s researcher Christian Bunn was going to participate in the 2nd Foro centroamericano de Cacao in San Pedro Sula, Honduras with two objectives: share preliminary results on a climate change impact gradient for the region and to establish contacts to gather additional input data. Being unable to travel there won’t be news about cocoa and climate change in Central America at the conference, but does this mean that this is good news?

Climate change has become a reality that affects cocoa producers across the globe. Observed temperatures exceed historic averages by about 1°; unusually long dry conditions reduce yields at many important cocoa origins. Therefore producers increasingly wish to adapt their cultivation practices to confront adverse events. The prioritization of adaptation tools for cocoa is no trivial task: available means are limited, climatic changes are not homogenous and each cocoa stakeholder has a different decision setting. Efficient adaptation is therefore crop-/site-/and actor-specific.

The first step towards individualized adaptation plans is an improved understanding of the projected climatic changes. The degree of expected impacts determines the adequate response: In regions with severe impacts the support of public actors is required to develop alternative market opportunities for affected farmers. Regions where the characteristics of the climate fundamentally changes will require the development or the transfer of novel production technology, or increased diversification of production. In the least affected regions the private sector will be able to lead incremental adaptation by smart use of existing technology because climatic changes remain within the tolerable range of the crop.

Our preliminary assessment of climate change impact on cocoa production suggests that projected climatic changes in Central America would not affect cocoa as much as elsewhere (Fig. 1). E.g. for Ghana our projections show a southward expansion of the Savanna zone into the cocoa belt. This will result in cocoa area reductions in the transition zone, and high adaptation needs in large shares of the cocoa belt in Ghana. Only the south will be able to rely on incremental adaptation.

Given these strong impacts on cocoa in its largest producing region market incentives may create opportunities for Central American cocoa production. However, only a more detailed study with a sound data basis for Central America will be able to answer this question. Despite the relatively weaker impacts adaption efforts will nevertheless be necessary to confront the significant changes in climate characteristics.

CIAT will conduct a detailed climate change impact assessment for the cocoa sector in Central America. The preliminary results presented here are a first step towards this end. Our data basis is currently insufficient (we have 70 GPS occurrence locations as compared to 100,000 for Arabica coffee) and we would have liked to call to conference participants to provide us with additional geo-references needed to carry out our work (contact: cbunn@cgiar.org). In our methodology we use the machine learning algorithm RandomForest to recognize the climatic niche in which cocoa can be cultivated in Central America. To train the algorithm we require a complete coverage of all cocoa production regions in Central America in the form of gps-locations. We would then validate the current distribution and extrapolate for future conditions as modeled by 19 global climate models in an intermediate climate change scenario. And then eventually, we will be able to tell the news at another conference.

The author of this post:

Christian Bunn

Christian Bunn

Postdoctoral Scientist-Linking Farmers To Markets

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