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Drought putting food security at risk

By Marlon Madden

Barbados and other countries in the region are facing a serious threat to food security as a result of dry spells, and officials are being urged to quickly put mitigating measures in place.

Principal economist with the Development Bank of Latin America and the Caribbean (CAF) Pablo Brassilio gave the indication on Thursday while making a presentation during the financial institution’s regional launch of its economy and development report, Global Challenges, Regional Solutions: Latin America and the Caribbean Facing the Climate and Biodiversity Crisis.

“This report indicates that temperatures will continue increasing, the rain will become less predictable and the drought is going to continue throughout the region,” he told those gathered in Santa Marta, Colombia.

“The aridity has increased about 41 per cent in the Caribbean [up to 2014]. As you can see, there will be a considerable increase, particularly in some zones like in the Caribbean. The drought is going to be doubled. Eighty per cent of land in the Caribbean is going to be dry in 2100 if we continue with this level of emission,” he warned.

He further raised the alarm that the climate crisis had the potential to severely affect the region’s food security.

“Of course, the aridity and the increase in temperature are problems for agriculture production . . . . The prediction tells us that we could have potential threats [to] the countries and their macroeconomic goals. Aridity is a threat [to] food security of small producers, particularly in rural areas with low income in Central America and the Caribbean,” said Brassilio.

He said the report analysed the impact of climate change on the ocean and other areas, adding that if urgent mitigating measures were not put in place, the region stood to lose segments of its biodiversity “at an accelerated rate”.

“There is still time to act and reverse the most concerning scenarios from the climate and biodiversity standpoint. We can take a pathway of sustainable development, economically speaking. But we need to act now,” he insisted.

“It is key to understand how we generate climate change and how we generate ecosystem degradation. This way, we can think of public policies that will contribute to the recovery of these situations.”

Brassilio said in Latin America and the Caribbean, agricultural-related activities were responsible for the majority of greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for about 58 per cent. This was followed by industries and manufacturing (16 per cent), energy generation (13 per cent), transportation (11 per cent) and buildings at two per cent.

He said that despite the challenges, there were signals of “some advancements”, including discussions on biodiversity and climate change at the global level.

Meanwhile, another principal economist at CAF Ricardo Estrada said Latin America and the Caribbean should prioritise putting adaptation measures in place, especially among vulnerable groups, to prevent an exacerbation of the situation.

He highlighted the need for more sustainable agricultural practices and a change in consumption patterns.

“The region has to think about its climate agenda and environmental agenda and policies to respond to the climate crisis. This agenda implies investment and reallocation of resources among productive sectors . . . . We need to look for a balance to [achieve] sustainable growth and inclusion,” said Estrada.

Pointing out that the region had tremendous potential in the area of renewable energy production, he also called on authorities to consider a “reform of subsidies”.

“We have important subsidies in the region, in the cost of power production. So we have some impacts there. They can be regressive as well, so we have to think about compensation mechanisms to create those reforms and make them more feasible,” the economist said. 

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