In Central America, smallholder farmers are at the heart of the agricultural sector. They represent the majority of the farming population and accounting for a significant portion of regional agricultural production. Many of these smallholder farmers depend directly on natural ecosystems for the provision of water, soil conservation, pest control and other services.
Climate models indicate that Central America will likely experience warmer and drier seasons and increases in the frequency of extreme weather events as a result of climate change. These changes will likely reduce crop yields, change pest and disease outbreaks and have significant negative impacts on farmer livelihoods.
Smallholder farmers are likely to be particularly vulnerable to the expected impacts of climate change due to their high dependence on agriculture for their livelihoods and their limited resources and capacity to cope with shocks. There is therefore an urgent need to identify strategies that help smallholder farmers adapt to climate change. Improving the productivity and resiliency of smallholder farming systems is also critical for alleviating poverty and achieving food security.
Conservation International (CI) and the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center (CATIE) are working together to identify and test Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA) strategies that can help smallholder farming communities adapt to these climate changes. The joint research project, CASCADE (Central American Subsistence and Coffee farmer ADaptation based on Ecosystems), aims to build local capacity to support the implementation of EbA strategies in three countries: Costa Rica, Honduras and Guatemala.
The project will directly benefit smallholder coffee and subsistence farmers across Central America by providing them with EbA options that can reduce their vulnerability to climate change. The project will also provide valuable support and information to agricultural organizations, coffee institutes, NGOs and other groups working with smallholder farmers on climate change adaptation and food security.
Other beneficiaries include policy makers, government institutions, civil society groups, and the donor community working to promote adaptation among smallholder farmers who will have access to detailed information on farmer adaptation needs and appropriate adaptation options.
CASCADE is generously funded by the German Federal Ministry of the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) under the framework of the International Climate Initiative (ICI) and will run until 2017. In addition to CI and CATIE, other key partners in the project include CIRAD and Bioversity.