Saturday, October 27, 2012

Central American farmers seek buffers against climate change

Danielle Marie Mackey in National Catholic Reporter: In 2009, El Salvador was not only the most vulnerable country in Central America to climate change -- it was No. 1 in the world. In the past several years, natural disasters have hit the country with increasing frequency. Their intensity and duration have risen exponentially, as well as their cost.

The total economic loss from three of the five storms in 2009-2011 is estimated at some $1.3 billion, with much of that coming from lost crops.

"With climate change, we face a challenge much greater than we ever could have imagined a few decades ago," Salvadoran Minister of the Environment Herman Rosa Chávez said at an Oct. 11 conference announcing a new study on the impact climate change will have on countries in the region. "Each year that we do not act is one more year of losses."

Storms are not the only problem. An increased frequency of uncommon weather patterns has had a wide impact. This year, for instance, drought ravaged farmers both in the United States and in Central America -- prompting fears of a worldwide spike in food prices.

This combination of events causes serious consequences for people who do not have access to economic or institutional buffers, like insurance, that enable them to survive this type of shock. In Central America, the livelihoods of a million small-hold farmers of maize and beans, the region's staples, will be at risk. The food security of the region is under threat.

That problem is the subject of the new study "Tortillas on the Roaster," an effort of Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the International Center for Tropical Agriculture, and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center....

Farmers survey a field in Nicaragua, shot by Neil Palmer (CIAT), Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license

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