Category: Agriculture

United Nations led partnership with Green Climate Fund to support nearly 1 million farmers in Zambia

United Nations led partnership with Green Climate Fund to support nearly 1 million farmers in Zambia

US$137 million, 7-year project supported through UNDP in partnership with FAO and WFP works toward global goals for food security and poverty reduction.

The UN in Zambia (specifically the United Nations Development Programme, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and World Food Programme) have joined forces together with the Green Climate Fund (GCF) to assist the Government of Zambia in tackling serious climate change induced risks facing smallholder farmers.

The GCF Board approved US$32 million of climate finance in its board meeting this week, which together with US$125 million of co-financing leveraged by UNDP will support the Government of Zambia in building climate-resilient food security and poverty reduction measures for approximately 940,000 people.

Implemented by the Zambian Ministry of Agriculture, the US$137 of financing will strengthen the capacity of farmers to plan for climate risks that threaten to derail development gains, promote climate resilient agricultural production and diversification practices to improve food security and income generation, improve access to markets, and foster the commercialization of climate-resilient agricultural commodities.

In all, the Government of Zambia anticipates reaching over 3 million indirect beneficiaries through the project – approximately 18 percent of the total population – which will work in 16 districts within the Agro-Economical Regions of Mambwe, Nyimba, Chongwe, Luangwa, Chirundu, Rufunsa, Chama, Mafinga, Kazungula, Siavonga, Gwembe, Namwala, Shangombo, Senanga, Sesheke and Mulobezi.

“Farmers living in these districts are especially vulnerable to climate change risks, primarily increasing droughts, variability of rainfall and occasional floods. There is a high rate of poverty, meaning efforts to end hunger and poverty are at risk if we don’t take immediate action to adapt agricultural practices to changing climate conditions,” said Government of Zambia Permanent Secretary, National Development Planning Mr. Chola Chabala.

This intervention is a major contribution to meeting one of the key outcomes of the Seventh National Development Plan which deals with reducing poverty and vulnerability whilst contributing to economic diversification and job creation in Zambia.

The UN in Zambia, led by the United Nations Development Programme, and including FAO and WFP, working with national institutions like the Ministry of Agriculture and Zambia Meteorological Department, will deliver an integrated set of technical services that will help to advance key Sustainable Development Goal targets, especially in SDG2 and SDG13. The coalition will ensure that best practices from pilot climate resilience initiatives nurtured with the support of these organizations will be scaled-up to meet Government of Zambia’s targets on adapting its economy to climate change impacts.

Hunger and malnutrition are real and present risks in Zambia. Approximately 60 percent of people live below the poverty line, and 42 percent are considered extremely poor. According to WFP, over 350,000 people are considered food insecure, and roughly 40 percent of children experience stunted growth.  Climate change is expected to worsen these impacts by 30 percent by 2030, by 50 by 2050.

Given the unique role of women in agriculture and food provisioning, and their unique vulnerabilities to climate change, GCF resources will focus dedicated efforts on building climate resilience for female-headed houses and rural enterprises.

The project aligns with Zambia’s key development goals for poverty reduction and food security, as well as its goal to become a prosperous middle-income country by 2030.

Globally, efforts are underway to mobilize international finance for low-carbon climate-resilient development through climate finance mobilized through UNFCCC financing mechanisms such as the Green Climate Fund. This project signals an important step to mobilize these funds in Zambia, scale-up pilot climate resilience projects, and work toward achieving Zambia’s Nationally Determined Contribution to the Paris Agreement.

In fulfilling its contribution to the Paris Agreement – and global goals to limit temperature increases to 2 degrees while ensuring no one is left behind in terms of economic and social development – the project will promote the conservation of water, improve the use of irrigation technologies, and strengthen climate information services.

“The UN in Zambia is delighted that this US$32 grant from the Green Climate Fund and the US$125 million of co-financing leveraged by UNDP will contribute to improving food security in the face of climate variations and introducing poverty reduction measures for approximately 940,000 people in Zambia,” said UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, Ms Janet Rogan.

For additional information please contact Lavender Degre, or visit

Cover photo by Sxfwaancr7/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0).

How to milk the coconut boom? Philippine farmers check their phones

How to milk the coconut boom? Philippine farmers check their phones

by Thin Lei Win

Generosa Gonato’s mobile phone beeped with a warning for the coconut farmer in the southern Philippines to be vigilant against bud rot, a common disease that is fatal for coconut trees. The message included the symptoms and how to treat it.

“So I monitored my trees and discovered some have it,” Gonato told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone. She followed the advice – cutting down and destroying the affected trees quickly to stop the disease becoming an outbreak.

Gonato started receiving messages in October, telling her when and how to put down salt – a cheap way to boost coconut yields – how to spot pests, and how to better manage her finances.

The messages are part of FarmerLink, a pilot project set up by a consortium to make small-scale coconut farmers in the Philippines more resilient to shocks like natural disasters and pests, and increase their productivity.

Gonato, 57, has eked out a living farming coconuts with her husband for the past 40 years.

With a monthly income of $180 for a family of four, they borrow money regularly to make ends meet. But that is still a huge improvement from a decade ago, Gonato said.

She credits the rise in her income to soaring global demand for coconut, fuelled by the fruit’s use in an impressive array of food, household and industrial products – from shampoo and sports drinks, to synthetic rubber and construction materials.

Virgin coconut oil has also been marketed in some parts of the world as a “superfood” with health benefits.

As the world’s second largest producer of coconuts after Indonesia, the Philippines has made the most of this boom. In the month of February, coconut oil exports alone totalled $132.6 million, rising by two-thirds in a year.

FarmerLink, which covers Davao Province, one of the Philippines’ main coconut-growing regions, combines mobile technology with a more traditional method.

It sends out field workers armed with tablets who speak to farmers and register them in the system, geotagging their location so text messages are better targeted.

The project is led by the U.S.-based Grameen Foundation, which has worked on similar programmes in Uganda and Colombia, with a $250,000 grant from Michigan State University and $1 million from the Global Resilience Partnership, set up by The Rockefeller Foundation and the development arms of the U.S. and Swedish governments.

Poor despite billions

According to the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), a state agency, coconut farms are present in 68 of the Southeast Asian nation’s 81 provinces, taking up a quarter of agricultural land.

There are 3.5 million smallholder coconut farmers and 23 million people – nearly a quarter of the population – depend on coconut for their livelihoods, according to the Grameen Foundation.

Sixty percent of small-scale coconut farmers live on or below the poverty line of 20,000 pesos (around $400) per year.

“The main problem we’re trying to solve is that coconut farmers are part of a multi-billion dollar industry, yet they’re one of the poorest segments within the Philippines’ agricultural sector,” said Ana Herrera, programme manager at Grameen.

“We’re trying to couple technology with practical, actionable information for the farmers, sent directly to their phones,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The FarmerLink consortium groups the PCA, the Grameen Foundation, the People’s Bank of Caraga and companies including Franklin Baker, one of the world’s largest suppliers of desiccated coconut products.

Managing such a diverse group is challenging but brings bigger benefits, Herrera said.

For example, business partners can endorse their farmer suppliers to the bank if they need to borrow money.

And the government has seen how fast things can progress by using technology, Herrera said. Previously farmers were registered manually using paper forms, which could take months.

Information scarcity

Coconut farmers tend to be poor due to low productivity, lack of direct access to markets, limited financial services and losses due to pests and diseases, said Herrera.

Many coconut trees in the Philippines were planted more than half a century ago, in some cases as early as the end of World War Two, experts say. As coconut trees produce peak yields when they are between 10 and 30 years old, many are now past their prime.

An average tree in the Philippines produces 45 coconuts a year, but according to agricultural data firm Gro Intelligence, the best-producing trees can yield 75 to 150 coconuts a year.

Many farmers are also unaware of, or cannot afford high-quality inputs that could raise yields, and lack the power to negotiate better prices with middlemen.

Compounding these challenges is the Philippines’ vulnerability to natural disasters. More than a million farmers were affected and 33 million coconut trees damaged when Typhoon Haiyan devastated the central Philippines in 2013.

The grant that helped to launch FarmerLink ends next month, but Herrera said consortium partners are looking for ways to continue the programme.

Meanwhile, the service is expanding to include automated voice messages, starting with tips on going organic.

Ravi Agarwal, founder and CEO of engageSPARK, a social enterprise whose platform is used by Grameen to contact farmers, said voice messages are more powerful than text.

“(Mobile technology) is very important because most of these people live in an environment of information scarcity,” said Agarwal, whose company has clients spanning some 100 countries.

“They may not know that if they add salt to the base of the tree, it will make their trees healthier… Information empowers them to get out of subsistence and escape poverty over time,” he added.

($1 = 49.9870 Philippine pesos)

Reporting by Thin Lei Win, Editing by Megan Rowling. Read the original article on

Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, corruption and climate change. Visit

Please credit Zilient, an initiative of The Rockefeller Foundation, the Thomson Reuters Foundation, Blue State Digital and OnFrontiers. All rights reserved.

Cover photo by Paul David Lewin/Flicker (CC BY 2.0).
Climate change could alter the taste of Christmas

Climate change could alter the taste of Christmas

By Georgina Wade

Everyone knows that a holly jolly Christmas is never truly complete without a few festive dishes and treats thrown in. But with expected changes in weather patterns over the coming decades, your mince pies and mulled wine may not be as you remember. In fact, climate change is likely to impact the quality and quantity of some key winter spices including nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves.

Nutmeg production is particularly vulnerable to climate change. According to the Climate Change Exposure Index (CCEI), 70 percent of global nutmeg production occurs within extreme risk countries. These ‘extreme risk’ countries are identified through high levels of poverty, exposure to climate-related events; and their reliance on flood and drought prone agricultural land. As Nutmeg is made up of surface roots which makes it increasingly susceptible to dry spells and high winds during its growth cycle, its vulnerability to these climate extremes is only exasperated.

As the world’s second largest exporter of nutmeg, Grenada’s arable lands present prime growing conditions for the nutmeg tree. But the surrounding highly hostile climate has presented challenges to the island state and its major export commodity in past years. The landfall of Hurricane Ivan in 2004 and Hurricane Emily in 2005 destroyed over 60 percent of the nutmeg crop reducing exports from 2,300 to 1,100 tonnes according to the World Bank. And as nutmeg requires a decade for optimal growth, production of nutmeg in 2011 was still less than 15 percent of 2003 to 2004 volumes despite being twice as high as quantities during the hurricane aftermath.

This vulnerability from uncertain weather extremes extends to the production of cinnamon and cloves. In Indonesia, a major producer of both spices, mean temperatures may rise by up to 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2050. Over the same period, the proportion of heavy rains is expected to double increasing flood risk to crops. Similarly, vanilla production in Madagascar is also being threatened by rising temperatures and extreme events. In March this year, Tropical Storm Enawo damaged about 30% of the island’s vanilla crop causing prices to double.

In some instances, adaptation programmes offer alternative solutions for countries to combat the impacts of changing climate on production. But the private sector remains key in driving these adaptation measures forward effectively through their ability to invest in such initiatives. While this can be an expensive endeavour, in the long term being proactive will not be as expensive as being reactive. For corporations set on meeting customer expectations through the quality and taste of their products, investments in adaptation can help protect their future bottom line. Through increasing awareness about the significance of climate change, including the private sector in national and international adaptation efforts, and engaging the private sector in developing products and services that can reduce the costs and impacts of climate change, these profitable cash crops (and your mulled wine) might just be saved.


Cover photo by Mira Bozhko on Unsplash
Climate change and cocoa: No more chocolate treats for Christmas?

Climate change and cocoa: No more chocolate treats for Christmas?

By Georgina Wade

During the holiday season, the abundant chocolate aisle at your local grocery store is a must-stop for your stocking fillers and general festive treats. But for those that cannot go a cold winter’s day without a warm cup of hot cocoa or a piece of chocolate orange, climate change may be your worst nightmare.

According to a study carried out by International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), many areas in West Africa will become unsuitable for cocoa growing as rainfall decreases and temperatures rise 1.2 °C by 2030 and 2.1 °C by 2050. Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, which together account for 60% of global cocoa production, are predicted to experience a decrease in climatic suitability for cocoa that, if not addressed, could impact future world cocoa supplies.

The world’s third largest cocoa producing nation, Indonesia, may also face similar challenges. “Increasing temperatures will have a negative impact on cocoa productivity,” said Dr. Soetanto Abdoellah Chairman of the Indonesian Cocoa Board. “We have to be very concerned with this. An increase in temperature of 1-2°C will lower the yield more or less 10-15% (in Indonesia).”

In fact, cocoa yields have been decreasing for some time now. In the case of chocolate, climate change and unsustainable farming techniques have already decreased the amount of land for cocoa crops by 40% in the past four decades. According to an analysis by PwC and Geotraceability, the shortfall is expected to reach one million tonnes by 2020 at current production rates.

Despite all of this, you still have reason to keep your holiday spirits high with the number of policy actions being put in place to adapt cocoa production to climate change. A number of these can already be seen in Ghana where the Cocoa Research Institute is continuously developing drought tolerant, high-yielding and disease resistant cocoa planting materials and improved agronomic practices to sustain cocoa production and farmers’ livelihood. Additionally, chocolate manufacturers have joined the fight with chocolate giant Mars promising to spend close to $1 billion over the next few years fighting climate change.

Photo by Jennifer Pallian on Unsplash.
Feeling the effects of climate change in rural Afghanistan

Feeling the effects of climate change in rural Afghanistan

By Gracie Pearsall

Millions of farmers and pastoralists in Afghanistan are experiencing the harsh effects of climate change. The Afghanistan Government, the World Food Programme, and the UN Environmental Programme, recently published a report detailing how climate-related drought and flooding have impacted the livelihood and food security of Afghan agriculturalists during the past 30 years. This report looks at the intersection of climate, livelihood, and demographic data to examine the impact of that climate change.

Livelihoods in Afghanistan are primarily agriculture-based, with more than 60% of the population listing agriculture as a source of household income. Thus, the most pressing climate threats that rural Afghanistan citizens face are drought and flooding, which alter the flow of water. The report breaks down drought and flooding into four distinct categories: Rainfall-related drought, snowfall-related drought, rainfall-related flooding, and snowfall-related flooding. Surprisingly, rainfall and snowfall can cause both flooding and drought, because climate change disrupts precipitation patterns.


Spring rainfall in Northern and Central Afghanistan has significantly decreased over the past 30 years, causing more frequent droughts. The regions where rainfall has decreased overlap with regions that depend on agriculture and pastoralism for income and food. The increased drought inhibits farmers’ ability to grow crops and raise livestock, thus increasing food and livelihood insecurity. Central Afghanistan is responsible for growing surplus grain and providing labour opportunities to surrounding communities, but decreased productivity due to drought has decreased food security in the area and throughout the country. In northern Afghanistan, where food security is chronic, many male family members go to Pakistan in the winter to find off-farm employment. Because drought has amplified food and income insecurity caused by drought, labour migration rates have increased over the past 30 years.

One distinct feature of Afghanistan’s agricultural system is its reliance on snow and glacier melt for irrigation flow. Snow-fed river flow is highest in the spring and summer when snow cover melts. However, because of changes in precipitation patterns, the Hindu Kush and Pamir mountains, are receiving significantly less snowfall than usual, which reduces spring river flow. The area most vulnerable to this change is the Eastern Basin area surrounding Kabul, which depends on snow-fed rivers for irrigation. Despite this area’s ability to grow cash crops, the area is chronically food insecure, and snowfall related drought further reducing arability and food availability.


While some regions have experienced decreased Spring rainfall, others have witnessed increased heavy rainfall, along with the devastating effects of the subsequent flooding. The mountainous Northeast, the hilly Southeast, and the arid Southwest experience the most flooding. These regions face the greatest risk because they are intensely irrigated by river flow and are sensitive to the effects of flooding that occurs when increased rainfall causes rivers to surge. Flooding has destroyed crops, caused displacement, and destroyed roads, which limits agriculturalists’ access to market.

Excess snowfall in the mountains causes increased flooding in the Spring and Summer when the snow cover melts. Rising temperatures amplify this flooding by causing the snow cover to melt quicker. The excess snowmelt flows into rivers and threatens the communities along rivers and those that use snow-fed rivers for irrigation. The intensively irrigated Southeast region in the Helmand River Basin is most at risk for snow-based flooding. This region primarily grows grains and vegetables, and is chronically food insecure. Communities and farms clustered around rivers in this area have faced growing destruction and displacement as the snow-fed rivers flood in the spring. The flooding is particularly volatile for pastoralists in this area, because the flooding changes the vegetation and grazing patterns of the livestock, thus forcing the livestock into new areas.

Future climate risks

Although this report focuses on how climate change has already impacted rural Afghanistan, the report also briefly touches on the future risks. In general, projections show increased instances of flooding and drought, which will further increase food insecurity, increase rates of seasonal labour migrations, and threaten the livelihood of millions of Afghanistan agriculturalists. However, in the Highlands the future is not so dire because the rising temperatures and increased rainfall could actually extend the growing season. This extension would increase agricultural productivity, but only if agriculturists engage in proper water management and invest in infrastructure.

You can download the full report by clicking here.
Cover photo from Pixabay (public domain): Rural Afghanistan.
The immense challenge of desertification in sub-Saharan Africa

The immense challenge of desertification in sub-Saharan Africa

By Nabil Ben Khatra, Institut national agronomique de Tunisie (INAT) and Maud Loireau, Institut de recherche pour le développement (IRD)

Today, dry areas represent more than 41% of land on the globe and they are home to more than two billion people.

They are the stage for the ongoing process of land degradation that is aggravated by climate fluctuations – particularly drought – and pressure exerted by human activities (including demographic growth and inappropriate management of natural resources). All of these factors strongly undermine the capacity of populations to adapt to an increasingly difficult environment.

In Africa in the 1970s, droughts had terrifying consequences in an already fragile context. The images of their effects still mark collective memory today. They were a determining factor in the holding of the United Nations Conference on Desertification in Nairobi in 1977.

Beyond recognition by the international community (since the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, with the adoption of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification), we also face the question of our understanding and evaluation of the desertification process, and of sustainable solutions to fight it. The recent inclusion of the concept of “neutrality” in terms of land degradation in the United Nations’Sustainable Development Goals makes the battle against desertification a major issue for development, (re)connecting societies and environments, and human well-being.

Millions of hectares are disappearing

The situation is particularly sensitive in sub-Saharan countries, where over 80% of the economy is based on subsistence farming. According to Monique Barbut, UNCCD Executive Secretary, emphasised that almost 12 million hectares of arable land are being lost each year globally, to desertification and drought, when 20 million tonnes of cereals could have been cultivated on this area.

Despite the diversity and intensity of efforts to combat desertification, the challenge of land degradation in a time of climate change in Africa’s arid areas remains unresolved. The environmental and societal stakes are massive, including food security, climate change, health, law and social equity.

However, the progressive growth of knowledge about the causes, mechanisms and consequences of desertification now allows us to devise new solutions, particularly when it comes to combating land and soil degradation.

Good practices to adopt

The success of such projects and programmes combating land and soil degradation depends on an understanding and evaluation of the situation in the territory concerned. This assessment prior to action should allow us to determine the type of degradation anywhere, its severity, its temporal dynamics, its spatial distribution according to the degradation factors, and the types and intensity of consequences both locally and at regional and international levels. This approach is indispensable for effective action.

Sustainable land and water management practices over recent decades have improved our ability to combat desertification and preserving natural resources. However, efforts still need to be made, particularly to create a favourable socio-economic environment to support, promote and deploy such practices over larger regions.

To assess the state of knowledge on these issues, the Sahara and Sahel Observatory (OSS) and the French National Research Institute for Sustainable Development (IRD) recently produced a report, “Desertification and Earth System: From Knowledge into Action”, that offers an unprecedented situational analysis. It can be consulted online or downloaded free of charge.

Achieving neutrality

The fight against desertification and land degradation requires the consideration of several temporal and spatial scales (from the agricultural plot and the basin, to farming, to village, communal, local, national or regional land), and levels of decision-making (from the family unit and local or regional government, to the State and international convention). It also must take into account various level of action and management, whether it be in understanding the mechanisms of land degradation, in the action itself or in its scientific, technical, administrative or political management.

Given recent technological innovations and human ingenuity, desertification is not an inevitability. However, nothing significant will happen if scientific, political and citizen mobilisation is not sustainably coordinated.

The ConversationBy starting work today on sustainably managing land and restoring degraded land, it is nevertheless possible to reach land-degradation neutrality by 2030. On this subject, it is worth consulting the report presented on 14 September during the UNCCD Conference of Parties in Ordos (China), devoted to sustainable land management for humans and the climate.

Nabil Ben Khatra, Ingénieur agronome, Coordinateur du programme « Environnement » pour l’Observatoire du Sahara et du Sahel, Institut national agronomique de Tunisie (INAT) and Maud Loireau, Ingénieur de recherche en agronomie et géographie, Institut de recherche pour le développement (IRD)

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
Cover photo by Anderson Sady (CC BY 3.0): Anti desertification sand fences south of the town of Erfoud, Morocco.
World hunger on the rise compounded by conflicts and climate change

World hunger on the rise compounded by conflicts and climate change

By Caroline Fouvet

The share of undernourished people in the world has risen to 815 million in 2016, up from 777 million in 2015, according to the latest report of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Several interrelated factors account for this disturbing situation, which reverses a 15-year decline of global hunger. The study points at the increased number of conflicts, often aggravated by climate change impacts, to explain the rise of undernourishment and food insecurity in sub-Saharan Africa, South-Eastern and Western Asia mainly. In Latin America and the Caribbean, 42 million people do not have access to sufficient food and food insecurity rose from 4.7% in 2014 to 6.4% in 2016.  A complex nexus of factors provides an explanation of the current state of affairs. According to the FAO, the drivers behind these trends are the rise in protracted conflicts and weather-related events, such as floods and droughts.

How elements interact and contribute to an increase in world hunger

The report dedicates an entire section to conflicts that intensify during prolonged periods of time, linking their occurrence to aggravated hunger situations. It appears indeed that 6 out of 10 food-deprived people live in conflict-stricken countries. Since 2010, internal conflicts have spiked by 60%, leading to the destruction of rural livelihoods, assets, and infrastructure that normally acts as a bulwark against malnutrition, such as health care and sanitation. In South Sudan for instance, where large-scale violence has surged following its independence, a famine was declared earlier this year. Other countries such as Lebanon, where over 1.5 million Syrian refugees flocked into fleeing the civil war, are overwhelmed since their public services are strained by the heightened demand. Adverse impacts on food security and nutrition on the poorest households are highly likely, in particular for refugees.

How climate change relates to conflict situations

Extreme weather events such as large-scale floods and intensified drought periods compound food insecurity. The report looks at 10 countries, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia and Yemen, where flooding, landslides and drought have led over 53 million people to simultaneously face food crises and conflict-related situations. What is more, climate change locks those countries into vicious circles as food insecurity can lead to further conflict, instability and vulnerability.

Increased world hunger directly undermines overall international development efforts and the ability to achieve specific Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) such as “ending hunger” and “ending all forms of malnutrition”. As 56% of the population in conflict-hit countries live in rural areas and depend on subsistence agriculture, they are extremely vulnerable to the compounding effects of climate change on their livelihoods. In addition, resulting situations of hopelessness can fuel further violence, extending conflicts’ duration and impacts.

Resilience measures are necessary in climate-impacted areas to help populations cope with weather-related impacts and secure development gains against global hunger. The report advises to mainstream climate adaptation as part of conflict prevention to secure livelihoods in rural regions in particular. However, it should be noted that, although extreme weather can intensify conflict situations, the link between climate change and conflicts, especially wars, is a complicated one.

Cover photo by FMSC (CC by 2.0).
UNDP & FAO webinar series: Climate Information Services in Adaptation Planning for Agriculture

UNDP & FAO webinar series: Climate Information Services in Adaptation Planning for Agriculture

By UNDP Climate Change Adaptation

Developing and least developed countries are highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Many of the world’s poor rely on agriculture and natural resources for food security and income, but climate change puts as many as 75% of them at grave risk. Making agricultural practices climate resilient and sustainable is therefor a high priority in many regions of the world. In 2010, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) established the National Adapation Plan (NAP) process to help identify adaptation needs for different time horizons and encourage the development of strategies to address those needs. Given the high climate sensitivity of the agricultural sector, it features prominently in most NAPs.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) coordinate the Integrating Agriculture into National Adaptation Plans (NAP-Ag) programme which aims to “integrate climate change adaptation concerns related to agriculture-based livelihoods into the existing national planning and budgeting processes of eleven developing countries and LDCs“. It also contributes to achieving partner countries’ Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

The NAP-Ag webinar on The Role of Climate Information Services in Adaptation Planning for Agriculture provided insights into the role of Climate Information Services (CIS) in planning for adaptation in agricultural sectors. Country case studies and extended exploration of best practices created a strong learning environment for country-to-country exchange on institutional arrangements, and gaps in Climate Information Services for the implementation and formulation of National Adaptation Plans. This webinar is a follow up to the March 2017 peer-to-peer exchange on “Effective Climate Information Services for Agriculture in ASEAN.”

Presentations and Session Recordings

Learn More: Webinar Series Overview

Cover photo by Asantha Abeysooriya on Unsplash: Woman in Sri Lanka harvesting tea leaves.
Climate change takes the ice cream cake

Climate change takes the ice cream cake

By Caroline Fouvet

You might take ice cream for granted when it comes to cooling down during a scorching summer. However, as climate change has far-reaching impacts on global agriculture, it actually affects essential ice cream ingredients such as cocoa, sugar, coffee or vanilla. World-famous ice cream manufacturers such as Ben and Jerry’s raise the alarm and point at concrete examples that illustrate the potential shortage of ingredients.

Take chocolate for instance: As 70% of the world’s cocoa supply comes from only four African countries, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroon, the increase of extreme weather events in the region directly threatens most of the production. The “chocolate tree”, Theobroma cacao, is extremely sensitive to pests and fungal infections and instances of both are exacerbated by climate-induced events. Moreover, floods and droughts directly disrupt the tree’s growth and water supply. In general, farming in the tropics, the cradle of cocoa trees, is becoming increasingly difficult. Nut trees and sugarcane fields also are affected by warmer winters, lack of rain or severe tropical cyclones.

Ice cream ingredients are vital economic outputs for farmers in developing countries and their shortage would lead to heavy losses of income. Cocoa production alone provides work to almost six million farmers in the world. In Ivory Coast, cocoa farming alone accounts for 15% of the country’s GDP, which highlights the disruptive economic impact of climate change. In Ethiopia, where 15% of the population depends on the coffee industry, studies estimate that 60% of the coffee-growing areas could not be suitable for agriculture by the end of the century. This shows, as highlighted in one of our recent articles, that climate change impacts, in particular on agriculture, directly undermine development progress and require adaptation efforts. It is for example likely that many crops will have to be moved at higher altitudes to cope with rising temperatures, when possible.

The other side of the coin is that ice cream production, if not managed in sustainably, also contributes to climate change through the destruction of forests to produce palm oil. Therefore, ice cream is not just a summer staple but should be handled carefully as an important produce for the world’ economy.

Cover photo by Ilona/Pixabay (public domain).
Vietnam’s 3 billion dollar coffee industry threatened by climate change

Vietnam’s 3 billion dollar coffee industry threatened by climate change

By Gracie Pearsall

In recent years, Vietnam has emerged as a giant in the coffee industry, exporting 1.8 million tonnes of coffee every year. But this US$ 3 billion industry faces an uncertain future. While Vietnam ranks as the second-largest producer of coffee in the world, it also ranks as one of the top 10 countries for climate-related damages since the 1990s. Rising temperatures and increased instances of severe weather threaten the coffee plantations that cover more than 640,000 hectares of Vietnam. In the face of this looming threat, coffee farmers and stakeholders are coming together to find ways to adapt to the changing climate and build a more resilient coffee industry.

The threat

In Vietnam, the main climate-related concern are increased instances of extreme weather, especially droughts. Experts predict that rainfall will decrease by as much as 20 mm annually and that the dry season will be up to 3 months longer than usual by 2050. These disruptions to weather patterns are particularly dangerous to the coffee industry, as farmers rely on precise timing to maximise yield and quality. For example, coffee farmers must plan so the coffee plant flowers at the height of the wet season.

Furthermore, rising temperatures are predicted to reduce the area suitable for growing coffee by 50 percent by 2050. The warmer climate could shift the Coffee Belt north and leave much of Vietnam outside the belt. The changing climate and uncharacteristic weather patterns will also make pest control much more difficult. Farmers are already witnessing the Coffee Bean Borer, a pest previously confined to the Congo, damage crops as it spreads throughout the Coffee Belt because these pests thrive in the warmer and wetter conditions. Any further warming will lead to an explosion of pests and pesticides, which farmers would need to combat.

Proposed adaptation measures

In March of 2017, stakeholders, farmers, and government officials convened at a workshop in the Central Highlands of Vietnam, the main coffee growing area, to discuss possible adaptation measures to minimise climate-related damages to Vietnam’s coffee industry.

One proposed adaptation measure was to diversify the types of coffee grown in Vietnam. The industry currently specialises in one species of coffee: Robusta. This homogeneity puts the coffee plants at risk of damage if a pest or disease were to attack the plants. All participants agreed that the industry needed new varieties of coffee plants. Introducing new types of coffee could make the industry more resilient to pests, which is crucial since pests proliferate in the new, warmer climate.

Diversification would also be beneficial to the soil. The current homogeneity means that the same nutrients are being stripped from the soil season after season, leading to bare and arid soil and dangerous run-off. Because their soil is depleted, many farmers are over-fertilising their fields, causing even more run-off and pollution. A more diverse coffee crop could change the nutrients that the plant consumes, giving the soil a chance to replenish the nutrients.

Cover crops and canopy trees

Another suggestion was to train farmers to use cover crops in coffee’s off-season. Cover crops would hold the soil in place, prevent run-off, and put essential nutrients back into the soil. The farmers could also harvest and sell the cover crops, thus getting an extra source of income.

Participants also encouraged farmers to plant canopy trees in their coffee plantations. These trees would provide crucial shade to coffee plants, as drought and heat become more severe. The canopy trees would also play a similar role to cover crops and prevent run-off and keep nutrients in the soil. Many farmers in Vietnam already employ this technique and use fruit-bearing trees, such as the Durian Tree, to provide shade for their coffee trees, and as a second source of income by selling the durians.

Stakeholders and policymakers are pushing to train and educate smallholder farmers with more workshops like the one hosted in March. Smallholder farms produce 95% of Vietnam’s coffee, however, these small-scale operations often lack the credit to invest in new farming methods. To address this, many large firms and corporations are partnering with NGO’s to invest in smallholders and create a smallholder assistance program. With these efforts and more, the coffee sector is bracing for climate change and building a more climate-resilient system of production.

Cover photo by Paul Arps/Flickr (CC BY 2.0): Preparing coffee Vietnamese style.