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Climate Resilience and Food Security in Central America

Also posted in Spanish

Project Reference: RSGL-0024G

Understanding food system climate resilience and developing practical indicators for communities, development practitioners and policy-makers.

Climate variability and change threaten food security by, for example, reducing crop yields or destroying critical infrastructure. Central American countries have established early warning systems to predict and prepare for periods of food insecurity, especially among vulnerable populations. As effective as these systems can be in monitoring emerging or evolving food security issues, our understanding of the underlying factors that make food systems and communities climate resilient is still limited. As a result, policies and measures directed at mitigating food insecurity have tended to be reactive rather than preventive.

The Climate Resilience and Food Security in Central America Project, funded by the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN), seeks to understand the factors that influence the resilience of food systems to climate shocks and stresses and develop practical indicators to monitor such factors at both the community and national levels. The project looked at how key government policies and programs affect the climate resilience of food systems in three of the most climate vulnerable Central American countries: Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala. Within each country, project partners worked closely with government and non-government decision-makers as well as with a range of pilot communities.

The project produced a conceptual framework, Climate Resilience and Food Security: A framework for planning and monitoring, for assessing, planning and monitoring climate resilience and food security at the community and national levels. The framework uses an innovative “spin-wheel” model to understand complex food systems and factors that influence their climate resilience.

Based on this framework the project has developed two innovative tools to help communities, development practitioners and government officials to assess vulnerability and resilience of food systems, develop resilience actions and design indicators to monitor resilience over time:

  • The CRiSTAL-Food Security tool focuses its analysis at the local level, and helps the user to navigate the food system, identify vulnerable elements of the system, and design resilience actions and monitoring indicators applicable to the local context. It is available in English and Spanish, with accompanying manuals in both languages.
  • The Food security Indicator & Policy Analysis Tool (FIPAT) focuses its analysis on the national and sub-national level, including public policies and their capacity to support resilience. It is available in English and Spanish, with accompanying manuals in both languages. The tools are both excel-based and are meant to be applied in a participatory way.

Researchers used a systemic perspective, and found similarities across countries in terms of addressing food security that should inform current and future interventions. Food security relies on linkages to external systems that are critical to ensuring it, such as storage (including refrigerated ones) and supporting energy systems, and access to markets. Resilient systems depend on the availability of supporting resources (like water and land), the accessibility and management systems of those natural resources, and the capacity of key actors and local participation in decision making.

The project also showed that local context matters. Findings highlight the continued importance of adapting interventions to the changing realities on the ground. Local and regional governments have received capacity-building to use these tools in their context, improving knowledge on climate change and understanding of key concepts. The communities that engaged in the project, were empowered by their better understanding of food security issues and became more aware of linkages in their food systems. As a consequence, some communities and practitioners have started changing the way they manage food systems locally.

In Guatemala, the results of using the tools to analyse climate risks to the food system were used to design policies for the rural communities of Montaña El Gigante that depend almost exclusively on agriculture. In Honduras, NGOs started using the CRiSTAL Food Security Tool more widely, spreading its use beyond the original communities that were part of the project. The tools could soon even be incorporated in the university curriculum of the National Autonomous University of Honduras, too. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in Honduras has used the resilience indicators produced through the tool application to compare and align their food security indicators.

Project outputs include two policy briefs from the the IISD Climate Resilient Value Chains and Food System Briefing Note Series:

  • Measuring Local Food Systems’ resilience: Lessons learned from Honduras and Nicaragua, September 2014: This briefing note presents insights into how one can measure and monitor the resilience of food systems in order to better inform food security interventions, based on the application of a new food security and resilience assessment methodology in Honduras and Nicaragua. It also draws recommendations for future food-security assessments in the context of a changing climate by stressing the importance of adopting a systems perspective to food security to encompass the many factors determining that security beyond the farm.

The project has also produced a series of blogs:


 

CDKN Funding: £500,000

Lead Project Partner: International Institute of Sustainable Development

Contact:           Alicia Natalia Zamudio

Project Partners:

CDKN Project Manager: Gabriela Villamarin and Sebastian Kratzer

 

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Project Highlights