By Fabíola Ortiz
That was the great concern that experts on food security present at the 20th Conference of the Parties (COP 20) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), held in Lima between 1 and 12 of this month. They fear steep increases in food prices if tropical countries do not adopt techniques to adapt quickly.
The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) estimates that climate change will lead to food price hikes of up to 30 percent.
The field is the first sector directly affected by the alteration of the climate, warned Andy Jarvis, a researcher at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and a specialist in low-carbon agriculture, from the Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security.
“Climate and agriculture go hand in hand and it is the climate that defines whether a crop is doing well or badly. The geography of where the crops are is going to move and the impacts can be extremely negative if nothing is done, ”Jarvis told Tierramérica during the Global Landscapes Forum, the largest side event held at COP 20.
Crops such as coffee, cocoa, and beans in the tropics are especially vulnerable to drastic temperatures and low rainfall and can suffer huge losses due to a changing climate calendar.
An example. In the Sacred Valley of the Incas in Peru, an area that harbors the greatest diversity of potatoes, high temperatures and incidence of pests are forcing the indigenous people to cultivate the tuber at very high altitudes. Potato growers could face a 15 to 30 percent reduction in rainfall by 2030, according to the Climate Wire.
Another one. In Central American countries such as Costa Rica, Guatemala and Honduras, there is an emergency due to the coffee rust fungus, which decimates their crops.
The pest has already caused $ 1 billion in losses in Central America in the past two years and now threatens to infect 53 percent of coffee plantations in the area, according to data from the International Coffee Organization.
Latin America produces 13 percent of the world's cocoa and an international effort will be made to conserve cocoa diversity in the Americas, as producers look for traits to protect production from devastating diseases such as the "witch's broom" that can aggravated by extreme weather conditions.
At the same time, cocoa can also serve as a strategy for coffee producers as a way to alternate cultivation when temperatures are not favorable for producing coffee, according to the Consortium of International Agricultural Research Centers.
"The COP has managed to keep global warming within a cap of two degrees Celsius as the most optimistic goal," Jarvis reminded Tierramérica.
But “that practically implies a total displacement of the coffee zone. Two degrees will be too hot. The dynamics of prices indicate that they are going to go up a lot. As production falls and supply is reduced, the price rises. It will have a great impact on poverty ”, warned the specialist.
Only in Nicaragua, where the coffee sector has an important economic weight, the increase of two degrees would lead to the loss of 80 percent of the current area of grain crops, he commented.
Until 2050, Nicaraguan coffee areas will move about 300 meters to higher areas, in addition to putting pressure on natural resources and forests and endangering actors in the coffee supply chain, according to a CIAT study.
As the weather warms, crops that have so far peaked at 1,600 meters must climb higher, affecting the livelihoods of half a million small farmers and agricultural workers, according to data from the United States Agency. for International Development.
The deputy director general for the forestry area of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Eduardo Rojas, assured at COP 20 that climate change already puts food security, resources and means of transportation at risk. life of the most vulnerable people.
“A resilient agriculture is more environmental because they do not use nitrogen fertilizers. But however much we do, there are systemic limits. We can reach the limit of what the adaptation of agriculture can be, ”he told Tierramérica.
Rojas insisted on the comprehensive approach to landscapes in the context of climate change to face the challenge of ensuring adequate nutrition for the 805 million people who suffer from chronic malnutrition. However, agricultural production will at the same time have to increase by 60 percent to guarantee demand.
The executive director of the American Earth Innovation Institute, Daniel Nepstad, recalled that the largest amount of land available for food production is in the tropics.
“The growth in demand for food, especially in emerging economies is going to be faster than the increase in production. The countries in the world that have the most potential are in Latin America ”, highlighted Nepstad, for whom innovations to mitigate the impact of climate on food are taking place outside the UNFCCC.
For the director general of the Center for International Forestry Research, Peter Holmgren, agroforestry is an approach to reconcile agriculture, forest conservation and produce food without generating these emissions.
“The great reason for deforestation in the region is the expansion of the agricultural frontier. Today there is already a lot of research looking for more resilient varieties of crops and seeds. There is still the possibility of developing smarter agriculture, ”he told Tierramérica.
However, Holmgren regrets that the issue of the impacts of climate variability on agriculture still remains outside the COP negotiations.
In addition to agroforestry techniques, agroclimatic information services with forecasts of four to six months are ways to contribute to adaptation to a new climate calendar.
Jarvis, from CIAT, argued that crop diversification and increased support with policies to promote the countryside are necessary. Currently, no more than 20 percent of producers in the region have access to land extensions.
Inter Press Service - IPS Venezuela