25, June, 2012

Innovative Mountain Adaptation: A Case Study in Agroforestry’s Economic, Environmental and Social Benefits

Small-scale coffee and cocoa farmers in northern Peru are successfully adapting to the challenges of climate change and enjoying higher incomes thanks to an innovative agroforestry project.

In mountain regions throughout the world, agricultural production is at risk from unsustainable production techniques, destructive human activities and the impacts of global climate change, all of which are accelerating deforestation and desertification.  Across Latin America, South Asia and Africa, agroforestry represents one of the most successful strategies for meeting these challenges. Between 2006 and 2007, Soluciones Prácticas (Practical Action – Latin America) implemented an innovative agroforestry project in the tropical rainforests of northern Peru aimed at reducing small-scale coffee and cocoa producers’ vulnerability and strengthening their capacity to adapt to climate change.  By integrating environmental conservation into local economic development priorities, capitalising on local knowledge and strengthening social organisation, the project opened-up access to international markets leading to increases in household income levels. This case study presents the local context, methodological approach, key results, innovations and lessons learned, as well as contextual and enabling factors, all of which could be useful for informing the design of similar initiatives in mountainous zones in other contexts.

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Key Lessons:

  • By integrating environmental conservation into local economic development objectives, the project not only led to improvements in local environmental conditions, but also supported farmers to increase their income levels. Agroforestry therefore represents a key strategy for addressing climate change in mountain areas while also providing economic incentives for farmers and policymakers.
  • The agroforestry strategy could not have been successful were it not for local knowledge. Project planners and policymakers should therefore ensure that climate change adaptation strategies make the most of existing knowledge, which can then be complimented with capacity building and technical expertise provided by suitably qualified external agencies.
  • The project demonstrates how an agroforestry approach to commercial production – one focused on opening access to international markets while at the same time strengthening farmer cooperatives - can be used with success to enable small-scale farmers to access new market opportunities, generating higher incomes and driving local development.

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