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FEATURE: Communities and scientists share climate knowledge in Colombia

Also posted in Spanish

More than 60 leaders and representatives of indigenous, peasant and afro-Colombian communities from Colombia’s high Cauca river basin contributed a wide array of perspectives, perceptions and knowledge on agricultural traditions at a meeting to exchange knowledge with scientists and academics about climate change and adaptation.

The gathering took place at the International Centre of Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), as part of the Agriculture, Vulnerability and Adaptation (AVA) project. Using the high Cauca river basin as a pilot area, the project is evaluating vulnerability of local agriculture to climate change and extreme natural events. It aims to show the extent to which main agricultural product chains must adapt, and to determine the capacity of the region to do so.

Participants included: the Colombian Ministries of Agriculture and Rural Development, Environment and Sustainable Development; the National Planning Department; the Environment Studies and Hydrology Institute (IDEAM), as well as national and international scientists from the four research, agriculture and climate change institutions of Cenicafe, CIAT, Cauca University and Caldas University.

The pilot experience in the high Cauca river basin is important for Colombia because the 25,000 km2 area represents a dynamic agricultural and industrial axis, where multiple socio-economic activities are concentrated. About 20% of the national population relies on the basin’s resources. During the exchange with communities, valuable information about resistant seeds (guarded by indigenous communities of Puracé and Kokonuco) was collected for the socio-cultural dimension of the AVA project.

“The model we are building is complex because it integrates four dimensions that usually are not analysed together: biophysical, institutional, economic and social,” explained Dr. Apolinar Figueroa (PhD), project scientific investigator. “We also need to be able to transfer the model to other regions, which involves making it suitable for adaptation to the information for each region.”

Agriculture, one of the activities most vulnerable to climate change in Colombia, satisfies an important part of food demand, directly employing millions of people. It provided between 7% and 14% of gross domestic product over the past 15 years. Smallholders are the main producers of food and frequently have had to vary their crops and seeds to adapt to climate changes.

Supported by CDKN, the AVA Project is led by CIAT, Cenicafe, Cauca University and Caldas University, with the participation of the Colombian Government.

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