The CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) will start its second phase in 2017, and Latin America is one of its five target regions for action. Taking advantage of CCAFS Director Bruce Campbell’s presence at CIAT headquarters, young researchers took the floor in a seminar, held on Thursday 17th November, for sharing key questions and challenging approaches learnt so far during CCAFS phase 1.

Having Brian Keating, Director of CSIRO’s Sustainable Agriculture Flagship and Chair of CCAFS Independent Science Panel (ISP), in the audience, the seminar started by identifying, through an online poll, the six main challenges in agriculture and climate change for Latin America. They are:

  • Generating evidence of Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA) effectiveness considering context specific conditions
  • Using new approaches for supporting farmers’ decision making and strengthen extension services across Latin America
  • How to reduce Greenhouse Gases emissions from livestock without decreasing productivity
  • Understanding the role of the private sector in widespread Climate-Smart Agriculture adoption in the agricultural sector
  • Supporting climate change policymaking processes so that they include gender concerns
  • Helping farmers to reduce climate risks

Following this sequence, CIAT farming system specialist Nadine Andrieu started her presentation asking about the conditions promoting the adoption of CSA practices at the farm level. To address this question, she shared the results of a participatory diagnosis and workshops held to identify CSA information sources in Los Cerrillos, the Cauca climate-smart village, located near Popayán.

The results indicated that there are three types of farmers: those who believe in climate change and its effects, and are adopting CSA practices; those who believe in climate change but remain passive, and those who do not believe in climate change.

These types of farmers and their interactions led to two main results. On one hand, social networks determine farmers’ perception of climate change and the adoption of CSA practices. On the other hand, the introduction of CSA practices is associated with additional changes at the farm level.

“CSA practices can improve synergies between CSA pillars – productivity, adaptation and mitigation – but are associated with other changes at the farm level that can lead to trade-offs between CSA pillars,” Nadine concluded.

The second priority identified was using new approaches for informing farmers’ decision making and strengthening extension services across Latin America. A theme in which an ‘ageekulture’ practitioner such as Daniel Jiménez has a voice.

Having in mind the advantages of climate-smart agriculture, Daniel and his Big Data team propose a different approach that flows from bottom to top, uses modern information technologies, and works as a complement providing observational information from commercial fields.

“This is about democratizing information and tools put in farmers’ hands for better decision making when thinking what, when, and where to grow,” explained Daniel while highlighting his experience with the Colombian National Federation of Rice Growers (Fedearroz) in the analysis of the main site-specific climate factors limiting rice production in Colombia.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions and contributing to the development of the Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMA) for livestock production in Costa Rica and Colombia is a double objective that CIAT scientists Jacobo Arango and Ngonidzashe Chirinda are tackling from a different approach: how can tropical forages benefit the environment?

To that end, two options are under the loop: the biological nitrification inhibition (BNI) process, which brings to the table three scenarios (Low, high, and mixed) enabling nitrogen to stay longer in the soil, depending on what improved forage variety is used for feed; and the real-time GHG concentration data collected rapidly at low cost by using devices such as GASMENT DX4040, an industrial equipment adapted to agriculture, a multigas analyzer with infrared technology capable of measuring, directly from the ground and simultaneously, 25 types of gases, including nitrous oxide, providing reliable results in a time span ranging from 5 seconds to 5 minutes, maximum. That is, generating the data for the gas inventory, which turns out to be a crucial component for the design of NAMAs for sustainable livestock farming.

The fourth priority was understanding the role of the private sector in widespread CSA adoption in the agricultural sector. With that in mind, Mark Lundy put on the table a question that keeps open the eyes of the private sector: how much will it cost to invest in climate change?

Resolving this question can be motivated through several entry points and drivers such as water risk, supply stability, reputation, deforestation, community conflict, micro-climate, and legal compliance. Based on his experience, Mark Lundy pointed out the importance of a better coordination not only within the private sector, but also in relation to the public sector, in order to design complementary approaches to cope, adjust, and transform responding in terms of adaptation needs in a value chain.

To make climate change policies more gender inclusive in Latin America is the fifth priority and it has led Tatiana Gumucio, a young CIAT researcher, to set a three-pillar approach comprising capacity building, knowledge products, and partnerships. The approach aims to make information easier to understand for policy makers, so they can actually include gender in action plans with clear resources for real implementation.

Concrete examples of participatory research in climate change and agriculture include a diagnostic gender study carried out in conjunction with Peru’s Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation (MINAGRI), and the institutional policy on gender that is being developed in Trifinio, the tripoint between Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras.

Last but not least, Julián Ramírez took the floor to talk about helping farmers to reduce climate risks. An issue on which he and his team are working on three major activities: climate prediction at seasonal timescales, yield prediction, and assessment of farmers’ and extension agents’ information needs for tailoring climate service.

Julián shared his experience with Fedearroz and the Colombian National Federation of Cereal and Legume Producers (Fenalce) in understanding predictability limits to identify how much information can be really provided in four subnational rice- and maize-growing departments, using statistical forecasting models.

The seminar came to a close after debating issues related to impact assessment relevant to the Latin American region, in which CCAFS is working since 2013 to reach a double purpose: influence policy making and to contribute to assure that policies are implemented in real-life.

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