A way forward on adaptation to climate change in Colombian agriculture: perspectives towards 2050

A Commentary to this article was published on 31 May 2013


Policy measures regarding adaptation to climate change include efforts to adjust socio-economic and ecologic systems. Colombia has undertaken various measures in terms of climate change mitigation and adaptation since becoming a party of the Kyoto protocol in 2001 and a party of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1995. The first national communication to the UNFCCC stated how Colombian agriculture will be severely impacted under different emission scenarios and time frames. The analyses in this document further support that climate change will severely threaten the socioeconomics of Colombian agriculture. We first query national data sources to characterize the agricultural sector. We then use 17 Global Circulation Model (GCM) outputs to quantify how Colombian agricultural production may be affected by climate change, and show the expected changes to years 2040–2069 (“2050”) under the A2 scenario of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Special Report on Emissions Scenarios (SRES-A2) and the overall trends in both precipitation and temperature to 2100. We then evaluate expected changes within different regions and measure the proportion of area affected within each crop’s distributional range. By 2050, climatic change in Colombia will likely impact 3.5 million people, 14 % of national GDP corresponding to agriculture, employment of 21 % of the population, agro-industries, supply chains, and food and nutritional security. If no adaptation measures are taken, 80 % of crops would be impacted in more than 60 % of their current areas of cultivation, with particularly severe impacts in high value perennial and exportable crops. Impacts also include soil degradation and organic matter losses in the Andes hillsides; likely flooding in the Caribbean and Pacific coasts; niche losses for coffee, fruit, cocoa, and bananas; changes in prevalence of pests and diseases; and increases in the vulnerabilities of non-technically developed smallholders. There is, however, still time to change the current levels of vulnerability if a multidisciplinary focus (i.e., agronomic, economic, and social) in vulnerable sectors is undertaken. Each sub-sector and the Government need to invest in: (1) data collection, (2) detailed, regionally-based impact assessments, (3) research and development, and (4) extension and technology transfer. Support to vulnerable smallholders should be given by the state in the form of agricultural insurance systems contextualized under the phenomenon of climate change. A national coordination scheme led by (but not restricted to) the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MADR) with the contributions of national and international institutions is needed to address agricultural adaptation.

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    World Climate Conference (WCC) and United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). International agenda in 1979 issued declaration of how climate change might be adverse to the well-being of humanity.


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We would like to thank Sam Fujisaka, Alexandra Walter and Charlotte Lau for their editorial work. The authors also thank the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Colombian Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MADR) for providing the funds for the development of the analyses presented on this paper. We also thank Rebecca Carman and Oscar Esnoz from UNDP, as well as participants in the National Dialogue on Climate Change (Bogotá, Colombia, 4–5 August 2009) coordinated by UNDP. We also thank Emmanuel Zapata from the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) for his contributions to preliminary versions of this paper in Spanish and the three anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments.

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Correspondence to Julian Ramirez-Villegas.

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Ramirez-Villegas, J., Salazar, M., Jarvis, A. et al. A way forward on adaptation to climate change in Colombian agriculture: perspectives towards 2050. Climatic Change 115, 611–628 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-012-0500-y

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  • Sugarcane
  • Cassava
  • Adaptation Strategy
  • Colombia
  • Climate Change Adaptation