Nicaragua is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to climate change. 80% of its population depends on agriculture but producers are losing their yields due to changing weather patterns. This makes building agricultural resilience and local capacity to adapt to climate change, an economic priority as well as an urgent human need. Our new ITL project, Climate Monitoring Action, seeks to do exactly this.
A daily struggle against climate change
Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the western hemisphere after Haiti, and it is one of the places worst affected by climate change in the world. Agriculture is the main source of livelihoods for 80% of rural households. Unfortunately, these families face a daily struggle, due to the devastating impacts of climate change.
Changes in weather patterns, an increase in insect infestations and animal infections, drought and torrential rainfall and other impacts of climate change are severely impacting yields, food production and the ability of rural producers to meet their household needs. 25% of rural farming households are classified as extremely poor and experiencing food insecurity, and 17% of children under the age of five are chronically malnourished. These figures will continue to rise unless urgent action is taken.
Small and medium producers feel the devastating impact most severely as they lack the knowledge, skills and resources to adapt their agricultural production to changing weather patterns. Investment is needed in activities that increase the ability of poor farmers to deal with the changing conditions they face, and to give them the best chance to survive and thrive.
ITL Climate Monitoring Action Project, Nicaragua
The ITL Climate Monitoring Action project will enhance the capabilities of local farmers and organisations on the frontline of the fight against climate change.
This two-year project will build the capacity of 300 climate observers, enabling them to record and interpret locally-sourced climate data using a dedicated smartphone app. Meteorological stations will also be installed enabling the capture of atmospheric conditions. This wealth of new climate data will be processed by a dedicated team from our partner organisation, Soppexcca, who will analyse the data and prepare climate alerts and recommendations for crop management. This will be used to develop tailored local adaptation strategies for local producers, based on the specific conditions they face. The provision of real-time climate information in this way, enables farmers to make informed decisions on whether to plant certain crop, whether to use the fertiliser on crops, or even whether to send their children to school or not, depending on how the water level rises in local rivers.
One of the distinctive features of this project is that it will focus on training not just the producers, but the family as a whole. This a departure from current climate adaption approaches in central America which tend to focus exclusively on the individual producer. This project will capture insights from the families over the course of the project, creating a model for strategies on adapting to changes in the climate, which if successful, has the potential to be used throughout Central America.
As with all ITL projects, the impetus is on the larger scale change which can be leveraged from a relatively small area of focus. By connecting community-based climate observers with the wider national network, this project will ensure that policy-making is informed by evidence of successful adaptation strategies from producers’ communities and local cooperatives themselves.
Traditionally, adaptation has been very top-down with climate information at a national level being used to generate adaptation solutions for local communities. This project focuses on taking a bottom-up approach, which builds the knowledge and capacity of communities, ensuring that the solutions provided are tailored to their needs and putting them at heart of decisions on adaptation.
Delivering change for poor producers
By the end of this project Christian Aid and our partners are committed to ensuring that –
- families are more resilient to climate change as a result of crop diversification and make effective use of climate forecast information
- that family observers are empowered to understand, translate and communicate climate information
- that producers are adopting effective agricultural practices tailored to local needs
- that Soppexcca’s data management unit team and systems have greater capacity to provide high quality and timely climate information to community members moving forward
In terms of the potential impact on agricultural yields and food stability, multi-country studies using weather forecasts by small-scale farmers suggest a range of potential benefits including 10-20% increases in yield. This combined with reduced production costs as a result of more effective and efficient use of inputs, offers a lifeline for poor producers. Furthermore in drought years, research indicates that early warning and weather forecasting can have even greater impact, increasing yields by between 45-75% compared to those not receiving these services. These statistics while only indicative, highlight how the ability to react to climate change can be the difference between surviving and thriving and falling into abject poverty.
With your incredible support we now have the funds to start this new project. Over the months ahead we will be -
- Planning and adapting to COVID-19 – Current approximately 1,900 people have been infected by COVID-19 in Nicaragua, though it is unclear how accurate these figures are. Christian Aid is committed to moving forward with the project in a way which safeguards our staff, partners and beneficiaries. The team are exploring digital options in order to enable them to delivery training activities. They are also working with partner organisations to agree how best to integrate social distancing measures in delivery of other project activities. As the situation is constantly evolving, a steering committee has been set up between Christian Aid and partners, to drive forward project implementation, and to agree further adaptation as needed.
- Undertaking baseline analysis and initial project activities - A baseline data analysis will be carried out to benchmark key data around cocoa/honey production and other relevant indicators, and to refine output targets and key performance indicators. Following this we will move into the project delivery phase and start undertaking initial project activities with beneficiaries.
We are excited about this project and the difference it will make for poor producers in Nicaragua. We look forward to updating you on its progress.