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FEATURE: Communities and scientists share climate knowledge in Colombia

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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 changeClimate change is a lasting change in weather patterns over long periods of time. It can be a natural phenomena and and has occurred on Earth even before people inhabited it. Quite different is a current situation that is also referred to as climate change, anthropogenic climate change, or ... and adaptationAdjustments in human and natural systems, in response to actual or expected climate stimuli or their effects, that moderate harm or exploit beneficial opportunities. (IPPC).

The gathering took place at the International Centre of Tropical AgricultureCultivation of the ground and harvesting of crops and handling of livestock, the primary function is the provision of food and feed. (CIAT), as part of the Agriculture, VulnerabilityVulnerability. Refers to the magnitude of harm that would result from a particular hazardous event. The concept recognises, for example, that different sub-types of a receptor may differ in their sensitivity to a particular level of hazard. Therefore climate vulnerability defines the extent to ... 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 DevelopmentThe concept of sustainable development was introduced in the World Conservation Strategy (IUCN 1980) and had its roots in the concept of a sustainable society and in the management of renewable resources. Adopted by the WCED in 1987 and by the Rio Conference in 1992 as a process of change in ...; the National Planning Department; the Environment Studies and HydrologyHydrology is the study of the movement, distribution, and quality of water throughout the Earth, and thus addresses both the hydrologic cycle and water resources Institute (IDEAM), as well as national and international scientists from the four research, agriculture and climate change institutionsSeveral institutions have been initiated to deal exclusively with all issues concerning climate change. 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 cropsA crop is any cultivated plant, fungus, or alga that is harvested for food, clothing, livestock fodder, biofuel, medicine, or other uses. 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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