10/16/2023

Caribbean: combining agriculture and adaptation to climate change

Farmers use biodiverse cultivation areas to protect themselves from the impacts of climate change. The International Climate Initiative (IKI) supports them in doing this. 

The Caribbean is particularly affected by climate change, with rising sea levels and increasing hurricanes as a consequence of global warming. The importance of healthy ecosystems as protection from these hazards is often underestimated. Furthermore, the biodiversity of the Caribbean islands is unique in the world, and climate change has large-scale consequences for these biodiversity hotspots.

The target areas of the IKI project “Ecosystem-based adaptation and forest restoration in vulnerable rural communities within the Caribbean Biological Corridor“ are key areas for the conservation and protection of biodiversity. Because: biological corridors connect conservation areas with each other, thus promoting the natural dispersal of species. The biologically-diverse character of the region also forms an important basis for the livelihood for the people living there.

Biological diversity secures the livelihoods of the rural population

In the Caribbean, the impacts of climate change mainly affect economically weak countries: Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world and is also affected by political instability. Cuba, too, faces major economic challenges. This means that countries find it difficult to recover from extreme weather events without aid. The Dominican Republic was last struck by a tropical storm in August 2023, which fortunately resulted in only minor damage to the country. But due to the increasing number of hurricanes caused by global warming, IKI project areas will continue to be repeatedly affected. Effective long-term precautions are necessary to improve the protection of the population. 

The rural population in particular is highly threatened by the consequences of climate change. The families, who mainly make their living with agriculture and fishing, depend on the diverse ecosystem services of a biodiverse nature. This includes intact forests that provide soil stability and good water quality as well as rich fish stocks that are able to recover regularly by means of reproduction. The negative impacts of global warming on biodiversity lead to the fact that sources of income cease and the agricultural land and fish stocks are overexploited. The consequences are an increase in marine pollution, the illegal clearance of forests and therefore an increase in erosion which in turn increases the instability of coastal ecosystems. 

How sustainable agriculture can contribute to the conservation of diverse ecosystems

The way in which farmers work therefore plays an important role in biodiversity conservation. Supporting them in using sustainable agricultural practices, helps to protect the ecosystems and secure incomes. 

In the Dominican Republic, for instance, the IKI promotes projects with a focus on the afforestation of degraded hillsides through agroforestry measures. Agroforestry stands for agricultural practices in which near-natural forests are preserved or restored, in combination with agricultural production. These measures can protect coastal regions particularly vulnerable to erosion processes. At the same time, the vegetation binds the soil and ensures that the nutrients that are essential for agriculture remain in the soil. 

Shared gardens with a high diversity of crops are also used as erosion protection and are cultivated by the local population. 
In Haiti, farming families were also trained in improved agricultural techniques, home gardens were created and agroforestry systems were established as erosion protection.

Overall, with the support of the IKI, more than one million seedlings of fruit and forest trees have already been distributed and planted in the project areas in Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Cuba.

Ecosystem-based adaptation: protecting biodiversity is not just a co-benefit

The IKI sees the positive effects on biodiversity in its Caribbean project areas not only as a welcome co-benefit but also as an explicit aim of the project work. 

At the same time, the IKI project approaches clearly demonstrate how important diverse ecosystems are for the adaptation to the impacts of climate change.

The IKI project “Ecosystem-based adaptation and forest restoration in vulnerable rural communities of the Biological Corridor in the Caribbean” is a successful example of how the rural population can successfully adapt to climate change by restoring degraded ecosystems and develop new sources of income.

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Contact

IKI Office
Zukunft – Umwelt – Gesellschaft (ZUG) gGmbH
Stresemannstraße 69-71

10963 Berlin

iki-office@z-u-g.org

Biodiversity and climate action in the IKI

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