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Nicaragua, global warming, and climate justice

NSC News | Monday, 3 October 2016 |

Coffee is no longer viable at lower altitudes due to climate change. Farmer Ana Maria Gonzalez is participating in a coffee to cocoa conversion programme.

Coffee is no longer viable at lower altitudes due to climate change. Farmer Ana Maria Gonzalez is participating in a coffee to cocoa conversion programme.

Rising sea levels, severe flooding, unpredictable seasons, increased frequency of storms…just some of the ways in which climate change is affecting the UK.

* What impact are these dramatic changes having on those who are most impoverished in vulnerable countries such as Nicaragua?

* What action is the government taking to reduce Nicaragua’s own emissions?

* What action are farming organisations taking to reduce the impact and adapt their farming methods?

Mitigation and adaptation: Ana Maria’s story

Ana Maria Gonzalez is one of 650 members of the agricultural co-operative SOPPEXCCA. She owns an eight acre, organic smallholding in the hills of northern Nicaragua where she keeps goats and grows cocoa and beans, and coffee for export through Fairtrade Markets.  She describes the impact of climate change on farming in the area:

“It’s far too hot and then we get too much rain straight after dry spells, which ruins our crops. It provides ideal conditions for leaf rust and other diseases, affecting many crops but principally coffee.   The impact of leaf rust was similar to an earthquake, as 40% of the 2014 production was affected.”

“The unpredictable weather means that we can't plan our planting or harvesting. When it’s too hot or dry we can't plant or fertilise the plants. This means our harvest is smaller and we earn less. It becomes a vicious circle as less income means less investment to combat the diseases that have increased as a result of weather extremes. We end up abandoning other crops to look after our coffee, our only cash crop and source of income. This can lead to food insecurity as we are not prioritising crops we plant for consumption.”

As the impact of climate change is better understood, adaption and mitigation programmes are being developed by the government and NGOs such as SOPPEXCCA. Scientists predict that as temperatures rise, large areas of land will no longer be suitable for coffee, a phenomenon already being experienced by Nicaraguan farmers.  However, cocoa grows well in these areas.  With the International Cocoa Organisation (ICCO) predicting that demand for cocoa will increase by 30% in the next ten years, SOPPEXCCA, with funding from Christian Aid, is working with 400 farmers on a cocoa conversion project. 

Ana Maria Gonzalez, one of the participants, explains: “Cocoa is providing us with a security blanket.  It has the advantage of being easy to grow and produces two crops a year. In addition we are diversifying in whatever way we can: we grow oranges and plantains to sell, and plant other food crops for our own consumption. We are also working on mitigation measures such as reforestation, campaigns against deforestation, planting more shade trees to protect the coffee, and building water storage tanks.”

“Climate change is a gross injustice, poor people in developing countries bear over 90% of the burden through death, disease, destitution, and financial loss yet are least responsible for the problem.” Dame Barbara Stocking, former Chief Executive of Oxfam.

“The technology exists, the capital exists, the urgency exists, what is lacking is political will on the part of the largest polluters.” Dr Paul Oquist, Nicaraguan Minister for Public Policy

What you can do – think global act local

  • Raise awareness of the impact of climate change on farmers in the developing world and the urgency of action to cut carbon emissions
  • Take part in Week of Action on climate change 8 - 16 October The Climate Coalition
  • Join the NSC supporter list to keep up to date with climate justice news from Nicaragua and our activities in the UK

Link to our briefing on Nicaragua, global warming, and climate justice


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