Colombian agriculture is an economic mainstay creating direct employment for 3.7 million people and comprising a significant percentage of the country’s GDP. It is also subject to the effects of climate change, a fact which creates issues of vulnerability, or incapability of coping with the adverse effects ofchange, for much of the population. Vulnerability assessments have attempted to quantify the degree to which a system will need to adapt to climate change impacts, or whether it even has the capacity to do so. However, such assessments have been criticized for their uncertainty and lack of applicability on the local or regional scale. Colombia’s Rio Alto Cauca project attempts to create a model forassessments that takes into account four dimensions of vulnerability, including the bio-physical, socio-cultural, political-institutional, and economic-productive dimensions. This brief provides an overview of the project and key considerations for implementing vulnerability analyses that are inclusive, integrated, and sensitive to social and political complexities.
The agricultural sector inColombia plays a large role in the overall economic activity of the country, comprising 10-14% of the National Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and creating livelihoods for upwards of 3.7 million people (Ramirez-Villegas et al. 2012; DANE 2011).Agricultural exports make up a full 40% of Colombian GDP from trade (Ramirez-Villegas et al. 2012; DANE 2011), with bananas, sugar, and green coffee as the topthree commodities (FAO 2010b). The Upper Cauca River Basin, a 25,000 km2 swath through Colombia’s western provinces, is of particular strategic importance as it represents the confluence of almost every production chain prioritized by the Colombian Ministry of Agriculture, as well as a diversity of agricultural systems ranging from small-scale operations to industrial farms. It is the foundation formuch of the country’s technical and high-value agriculture, including the sugar industry and the greater part of the coffee- and fruit-growing zones (CDKN & AVA 2012).
Colombian agriculture will feel the effects of climate change in a number of ways. An expected average increase in annual mean temperature by 2050 of 2.5°C and a 2.5% rise in precipitation is likely to translate into soildegradation and organic matter losses in the Andes hillsides, niche losses for coffee, fruit, cocoa, and bananas, and changes in the prevalence and distribution of pests and diseases (Lau, Jarvis & Ramirez 2010). Losses in climatic suitability for 25 of Colombia’s most important crops are predicted to be seen in up to 83% of potential agricultural area (Jarvis et al. (in production))(Figure 1). Yieldreductions and increases in production costs are expected as a result of pest and disease fluctuations and the loss of crop climatic niches, especially for specialized crops such as coffee (Ramirez-Villegas et al. 2012). By 2025, the economic damages associated with climate change in the Andean Region could represent the loss of approximately 30,000 million USD annually (SGCAN 2008).
[pic]Figure 1. Changes in the suitability of 25 crops in Colombia estimated with the EcoCrop model.Jarvis et al. (in production).
The above considerations, in addition to the fact that over 37% of the country’s population is at or below the poverty line (WorldBank 2012) and thus ill-equipped to cope with changes in climate, mean that Colombian agriculture and the Upper Cauca Basin in particular ishighly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Vulnerability is defined by the IPCC as the degree of susceptibility and incapability of a system to confront the adverse effects of climate change, and, in particular, climate variability and extreme phenomena (Third Assessment Report 2001). According to the IPCC definition, vulnerability is a function of three variables: Exposure, or the degree...