The upcoming Harvest the Future International Symposium in Jamaica from June 14 to 17 provides an ideal opportunity to explore Climate-Smart Agriculture adaptations in a place where they are vital to future food security.
The timing is also excellent: Coming on the heels of a year marked by the U.N. Climate Summit, the Lima Climate Change Conference, and the release of the full, four-section Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the INMED Partnerships for Children symposium takes place with the benefit of newly available knowledge of mitigation progress as a valuable backdrop for studying small-scale, intensive interventions such as aquaponics and water harvesting.
Are We Making Progress With Mitigation?
Blizzards like the ones that swept through New England earlier this year would be reason enough to doubt efforts to date. This satellite image of the Boston area on January 27, 2015— a perfect picture of global warming in action as frigid Arctic air meeting the increasingly warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean—makes the enormity of the task all too clear.
And yet, as reports of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel Working Groups indicate, we are discovering methods and finding pathways toward stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations. The studies also give us crucial measures of scientists’ levels of confidence in the mitigation programs.
In the energy sector, for example, Working Group III found that the development of energy efficiency policies and their implementation has advanced considerably since the Intergovernmental Panel’s Fourth Assessment Report. The report pointed out, “Building codes and appliance standards, if well designed and implemented, have been among the most environmentally and cost-effective instruments for emission reductions.”
In the forestry sector, recent estimates point to declining CO2 fluxes due to decreasing deforestation rates and increased afforestation—two of the most cost-effective mitigation options in forestry.
Progress on the deforestation front can be attributed in part to policy shifts in industries coming under consumer fire. Last September, prior to the U.N. Climate Change Summit, Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, gave palm oil as one good example.
“Something remarkable happened this past year,” he wrote in a CNN.com opinion piece. “Stirred by growing consumer demand for change and unprecedented new commitments to sustainability, companies whose business represents well over half the globally traded volume of palm oil have pledged to source their products without cutting down forests. Amongst the highest profile of these companies is the Asian trading giant Wilmar International, once described by Newsweek as having the worst environmental record of any Fortune 500 company.”
Wilson added, “Since Wilmar made its sustainability commitment in December 2013, Hershey’s, Kellogg’s, Mars, General Mills, Colgate-Palmolive, Cargill, Procter & Gamble and Johnson & Johnson have all followed suit.”
Adaptation: It’s a Real Plus
Meanwhile, the call for adaptation is growing louder as planning and implementation responses are expanding, according to Working Group II’s report on “Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability.”
“Adaptation experience is accumulating across regions in the public and private sector and within communities,” the summary states. “Governments at various levels are starting to develop adaptation plans and policies and to integrate climate-change considerations into broader development plans.”
The report goes on to cite these specific—and encouraging—examples:
- In the ocean, international cooperation and marine spatial planning are starting to facilitate adaptation to climate change, with constraints from challenges of spatial scale and governance issues.
- In Africa, most national governments are initiating governance systems for adaptation. Disaster risk management, adjustments in technologies and infrastructure, ecosystem-based approaches, basic public health measures, and livelihood diversification are reducing vulnerability, although efforts to date tend to be isolated.
- In Europe, adaptation policy has been developed across all levels of government, with some adaptation planning integrated into coastal and water management, into environmental protection and land planning, and into disaster risk management.
- In Asia, adaptation is being facilitated in some areas through mainstreaming climate adaptation action into subnational development planning, early warning systems, integrated water resources management, agroforestry, and coastal reforestation of mangroves.
- In Australasia, planning for sea level rise, and in southern Australia for reduced water availability, is becoming adopted widely. Planning for sea level rise has evolved considerably over the past two decades and shows a diversity of approaches, although its implementation remains piecemeal.
- In North America, governments are engaging in incremental adaptation assessment and planning, particularly at the municipal level. Some proactive adaptation is occurring to protect longer-term investments in energy and public infrastructure.
- In Central and South America, ecosystem-based adaptation including protected areas, conservation agreements, and community management of natural areas is occurring. Resilient crop varieties, climate forecasts, and integrated water resources management are being adopted within the agricultural sector in some areas.
- In the Arctic, some communities have begun to deploy adaptive co-management strategies and communications infrastructure, combining traditional and scientific knowledge.
- In small islands, which have diverse physical and human attributes, community-based adaptation has been shown to generate larger benefits when delivered in conjunction with other development activities.
Jamaica is an ideal example of a vulnerable island country working to deliver local innovations, such as aquaponics and other climate-smart agricultural practices, along with major development programs.
As recently as February 17 of this year, the Agriculture, Labour and Social Security Minister, Derrick Kellier, announced the latest in a series of national initiatives designed to grow the island’s food security while lessening the impact of natural disasters.
Over the next four years, the Jamaican government will be planting one million trees across the island in a project led by the government’s wholly owned SCJ Holdings, Ltd. Partners include the Ministries of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change; Local Government and Community Development; Education; Health; Agriculture, as well as the Forestry Department, National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), Social Development Commission (SDC), and the Jamaica 4-H Clubs.
The project’s goals are ambitious, as Caribseek.com reported: “to increase local food production; provide a source of fruits to boost agro-processing; provide employment and culture change in schools and communities; reduce the country’s carbon footprint; increase the country’s stock of lumber trees; protect watersheds; and support the national climate change initiative.”
Meanwhile, Jamaica is building resiliency one farmer at a time. Through Jamaica Rural Economy and Ecosystems Adapting to Climate Change (Ja REEACH)’s Climate-Smart Farmer Field Schools, more than 1,000 farmers have been trained so far in the application of land husbandry practices and technology that include water diversion ditches, individual basins, waterways, planting of fruit and timber forests, and establishment of continuous mounds.
Jamaica’s integrated, bottom-up and top-down approaches to adaptation are among the many compelling topics Harvest the Future symposium participants will explore in June. This inaugural international gathering promises to be an exceptional opportunity to learn first-hand about Jamaica’s and other countries’ innovative policies, farmer education programs, and climate-smart agriculture solutions.