Informing decision makers on climate change adaptation in Haiti
On 28 August, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and Haiti’s Ministry of Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Rural Development (MARDNR) convened a conference in Port au Prince, Haiti, to present and discuss the results of a recent CIAT study with key decision makers and donors in the country.
Anton Eitzinger presented the main conclusions of the study, which was carried out last year with CRS support and looks at the impacts of climate change on mango and coffee production in Haiti – two of the country’s most important commodities, generating income valued at around US$12 million in 2011 alone. The study reveals that the area suitable for coffee is set to shrink significantly by 2050, and that coffee yields and the quality of production will likely decrease. The production of mango, on the other hand, should not be significantly affected, as most regions will remain highly suitable.
The study puts forward a number of adaptation measures for coffee growers, including new coffee varieties, irrigation schemes, and shade management, among others. But results also suggest that farmers should start diversifying their production in regions below 1200 meters above sea level, where coffee will soon cease to be suitable. Alternatives include mango, cocoa, groundnuts, sorghum, and yam, the study says. The authors put particular emphasis on cocoa, because the crop is very suitable in Haiti and will remain so; it offers good economic prospects; and cocoa agroforestry systems provide environmental services equivalent to those provided by coffee-based agroforestry systems, such as soil cover, carbon sequestration, biodiversity, and water storage.
With higher average temperatures, changing rainfall patterns, more frequent extreme weather events hitting coastal areas, and degrading soil quality, there is broad consensus that climate change is having serious effects on agricultural production in the country. Now is the time to take strategic measures to avoid immediate and future economic losses, and detrimental social and environmental impacts. By bringing together key stakeholders in Haiti, CRS seeks to initiate a dialogue aimed at promptly adapting the country’s agricultural sector.
Over 70 representatives from CRS, CIAT, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Environment, the United Nations, donor agencies, and NGOs active in Haiti took stock of information and data available at this point and considered priority actions.
The participation of more than 30 journalists from 22 different TV and radio outlets, as well as 5 public-relations agents from the Ministry of Agriculture, confirms the high level of concern and interest in the topic.
The impacts of climate change, if understood and addressed in a timely manner, can present opportunities for the country’s agricultural sector, which currently contributes 25% of the GDP and employs more than half of the working-age population of Haiti.
Steps can be taken, for example, to establish nutrition-sensitive value chains that benefit the poor and malnourished.
More specific mapping of the growing regions of the country where crops will gain/lose suitability, as well as a better understanding of farmers’ capacity to adapt, will be necessary in order to target and prioritize interventions.
Continued dialogue and coordination among institutions responsible for climate change adaptation, including the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Agriculture, is also key to put Haiti on the pathway towards climate-smart agriculture.
Building especially on its experience with climate proofing Colombia’s agricultural sector, CIAT stands ready to provide further support and inform the decision and policy makers in this process.
The dialogue is on. Stay tuned for news on further developments related to adaptation in Haiti. To learn more about the impacts of climate change in Haiti, please see suggested readings:
- Presentation: Prevision of the impacts of climate change on coffee and mango growing areas in Haiti, Anton Eitzinger, CIAT
- Policy brief: Haiti Coffee and Mango Production in a Changing Climate
In the media:
- Nouvelliste en Haiti, Les changements climatiques causent des ennuis à la sécurité alimentaire
- The Sacramento bee, Climate change poses challenges to Haiti’s coffee production, study says
- Yahoo! Mexico, Urgen a Haití a actuar contra cambio climático
- New Zealand Herald, Experts urge Haiti to act on climate change threat
- Yahoo! India, Experts urge Haiti to act on climate change threat
- Miami Herald, Climate change poses challenges to Haiti’s coffee production, study says
- CBC News, Experts urge Haiti to act on climate change threat
- Sunherald.com, Climate change poses challenges to Haiti’s coffee production, study says
- TaiwanNews, Experts urge Haiti to act on climate change threat
- New Europe, Experts urge Haiti to protect coffee, mango crops from climate change effects
- elNuevoHerald.com – América Latina AP, Urgen a Haití a actuar contra cambio climático
Text: Stefanie Neno
Photos: (1) Benjamin Depp/CRS and (2) Patrice Douge/CRS