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Climate risks in Nicaragua

Nicaragua is one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change in the world, according to the 2015 Germanwatch Global Climate Risk index. Many communities rely heavily on agriculture and are vulnerable to the effects of flooding and droughts, which are likely to increase and intensify in the future.

These effects are compounded by a lack of information and access to government support to help them face these challenges.

Christian Aid works to anticipate and monitor climate risks in Nicaragua through a community driven approach.

How we help

Building on existing work of early warning systems for hurricanes, our partner Centro Humboldt developed a climate model for Nicaragua.

The model creates forecast maps up to 2039, indicating the crops that are better suited to a particular location based on longer term climate trends. 

To improve the local accuracy of the model, climatic data from the government was complemented by 27 community-managed rain gauges, in areas relatively less well covered by government climate stations.

We supported our partners Centro Humboldt and MCN to do Participatory Vulnerability and Capacity Assessments (PVCAs) at a community level.

Integrating the climate model  information within community planning is helping people to:

  • make better decisions on which crops to plant, 
  • select appropriate varieties to avoid or reduce crop losses,
  • and use alternative crops like sorghum or sesame.

Communities were also linked and their voice amplified by the creation of a national network of community climate monitors (initiated by Centro Humboldt). 

Community needs resulting from the PVCAs, were also fed by the partner into the National Adaptation Strategy in Nicaragua and related processes in Nicaragua and Central America.

The rain gauges help us to decide which crop to plant, for example if rainfall is too low for maize, we plant sesame instead. That way we can keep the seed for the second shorter planting season rather than literally throwing it away into the soil.

Hermenegildo Osabas

Las Mariitas community, Nicaragua

The impact

Climate change/resilience

By January 2016, 98% of producers said they had adopted two or more new climate change adaptation/resilience techniques like drought-resistant seed banks, crop rotation and water harvesting techniques. This is compared to 17.9% at the baseline (a difference of 80.3%). 

86% of 2,050 producers (83% of 870 women) confirmed improved uptake of climate information.

This has helped them prepare for the intensification of the El Niño weather phenomenon during 2014 and 2015.

A September 2016 study found that 87% of producers confirmed using early warning systems for the 2015 El Niño droughts when deciding what and when to plant. 86% of these confirmed they had reduced costs and had fewer crop losses by either not planting (thereby not wasting seeds and other inputs) or planting at a more appropriate time.

Producers receiving early warning and support also recorded maize yields that were 73% higher than those not receiving this. 

As a result, producers are better equipped to decide the best season to avoid planting, thus avoid seed waste, but achieve higher yields when they do plant.

Advocacy

Advocacy based on the PVCA community action plans was supported by more technical climate information in a regular climate newsletter distributed by Centro Humboldt, and led to two municipalities investing £220,000 towards climate change adaptation activities, including prioritising alternative water access options for communities.

In Central America, this community-level evidence is being used to inform the approved regional Central America Climate Change Framework Law, ensuring that the needs of vulnerable communities are taken into account, and Centro Humboldt continues feeding into the ongoing design stage of the Nicaragua National Adaptation Plan on the same issue. 

Explore other PPA impact stories

Reports and resources

Nicaragua is one of the countries in the Americas most vulnerable to climate change and significantly reliant on agriculture for employment and liv

Agriculture is the economic sector most vulnerable to climate change and it is directly responsible for about 25% of the world’s greenhouse gas emi

A report summarising our key experience across three countries – Kenya, India and Nicaragua.