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NEWS: Making food systems more resilient to climate change

Also posted in Spanish

A new project aims to make sure Central America’s food systems can withstand climate shifts, as Marius Keller, from the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), reports

Climate change represents a daunting challenge to food security because of its magnitude and complexity. The extent and timing of future climate impacts is uncertain, and the economic, social and environmental systems that underpin food security have become globalised and highly interconnected. Vulnerable communities, governments and society need guidance on how to ensure people have sufficient food to eat in a changing climate.

This is why, with funding from CDKN, the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) has launched the Climate Resilience and Food Security in Central America (CREFSCA) project. In cooperation with Central American and global partners we are aiming to identify and understand the factors that influence how resilient food systems are to climate shocks and stresses. We plan to develop practical indicators so communities and governments can monitor such factors, and develop actions and policies to increase resilience.

While past studies have focused heavily on the climate risks facing agricultural production, and corresponding responses by farmers, we aim to take a broader view and look at the vulnerability of all dimensions of food security. For example, the ability of people to digest food can be affected when heavy rainfalls lead to increased prevalence of diarrhea. Communities may be unable to access food when landslides cut off access roads or when hurricanes destroy livelihoods. The combination and interplay of such impacts causes entrenched food insecurity.

Analysing food production systems in detail will help us identify ways to increase resilience at appropriate scales. For example, where climate extremes affect the food security of women disproportionately more than that of men, gender-specific development interventions may be warranted. Communities may find they are too dependent on one type of livelihood and diversify to reduce risk. Governments might prioritise improving vulnerable storage and transport networks, or health services, to increase people’s ability to cope in adverse circumstances.

The CREFSCA project will work with 30 pilot communities in Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. It will analyse the vulnerability of the food systems they depend on and develop a set of locally relevant resilience indicators to help them increase awareness and guide action. This process will be mirrored by close engagement with national policy makers so that they can put in place appropriate supporting policies. The project team will develop guidance tools for use by communities and at the national level; this will allow decision-makers and development practitioners to apply similar processes elsewhere.

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