Knowledge for a sustainable world

Jeremy Haggar

Climate projections indicate that increases in temperature will reduce crop yields in Mesoamerican countries and will particularly affect Arabica coffee, one of the region's major exports.

An article published last week by Jeremy Haggar and co-authors from the International Centre of Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) describes a framework for quantifying vulnerability to climate change of Mesoamerican coffee growers' livelihoods and for assessing their capacity to adapt.

The framework, developed by Jeremy and co-authors, contributes to an integrated analysis of the vulnerability of coffee farming families. The study evaluates the exposure of farmers to climate change - the change in suitability for coffee production; the family's sensitivity to climate change - how dependent they are on coffee income; and their capacity to adapt - how capable they are of changing coffee production practices to cope or switch to other income sources.

In general, exposure to climate change was high with 35-45% of the coffee growing areas of El Salvador and Nicaragua experiencing considerable loss in suitability for coffee production. Families' sensitivity and capacity to adapt varied depending on their socioeconomic status and their linkage to social support systems. This means there were considerable differences between municipalities and even families within communities as to their overall vulnerability to climate change.

Therefore, the study revealed that it is difficult to target specific interventions to support climate adaptation, but rather policies are needed to improve the overall enabling environment of financial, technological and institutional support to families to help them adapt in ways appropriate to their needs and capacities.