Latin America and Caribbean severely affected by El Nino, says IICA

Latin America and Caribbean severely affected by El Nino, says IICA

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

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SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (CMC) — A new study by experts of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) has found that Latin America and Caribbean countries (LAC) will continue to be severely affected by the El Niño phenomenon that has been affecting the region since 2014.

The IICA said that El Niño has impacted and will further impact the productive, social and environmental sectors of several countries in the region.

"Although the phenomenon will not have the same impact on all countries in LAC, or on all crops in a single country, experts agree that the only way to anticipate, prevent and mitigate its impacts is to incorporate risk management into agricultural planning; this is the only way in which agriculture can become more resilient in the face of extreme climatic events," the IICA noted.

The study was done by IICA specialists analysing the impact of El Niño on the agricultural sector of LAC, in order to support decision makers in designing instruments and strategies to deal with the climatic phenomenon.

The study found that severe hydrological, meteorological and agricultural droughts are being forecast for Central America, Mexico, the Caribbean, and some regions of South America, and are expected to cause significant losses of staple grains, fruits and livestock.

On the other hand, El Niño may improve agricultural yields in Andean and other South American countries, due to an expected increase in rain.

"Although some countries have developed projects and strategies for mitigating the impact of the phenomenon on agriculture, it is important to create long-term strategies that, in addition to mitigation, also contemplate adaptation and climate risk transfer," said JoaquÃn Arias, IICA specialist in policies and sectoral analysis and co-author of the publication.

Some of the recommendations are to make progress in developing comprehensive risk management strategies, especially in family agriculture, to strengthen monitoring and early warning systems, and to promote innovation in order to improve the resilience of agriculture and natural resource management.

IICA specialist in agriculture and climate change and co-author of the document, Kelly Witkowski, said the current manifestations of El Niño in the Americas serve as a preview to what the region could experience in a few years as a result of greater impact of climate change.

The IICA noted that throughout history, El Niño has affected the production, social and environmental sectors. For example, between 1997 and 1998, LAC faced losses of 50 per cent in some agricultural and livestock activities as a result of the phenomenon, in addition to damaged transportation, electricity and water infrastructure. The situation led to an increase in production costs.

According to ChavarrÃa, significant impacts are still felt by some of the main agricultural producers around the world, which could also destabilise global food markets.

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