News from the Caribbean Hub: Looking Back (FY16) & Moving Ahead (FY17)
By William A. Gould, Caribbean Climate Hub Director
The Caribbean Climate Hub had an exciting year in FY16 with new staff, new collaborations, cool science delivery, high level visitors, working with partners in Latin America and the Caribbean and with partners in the USDA Climate Hub Network. I would like to share some thoughts and updates about our work developing climate change science and communicating adaptation information to the farming community in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
As a note of reflection, the challenge of responding to climate change, making decisions and progress in spite of all the uncertainties of the future, is a challenge worth accepting. The practices of agriculture and forestry are as old as human history, but the drive to feed ourselves and provide homes and healthy lives is as present as our next meal. The tools and technology we have to support sustainable agriculture are limited only by our imagination and ingenuity. However, adapting to climate change is a real and pressing challenge. The resources and conditions that support agriculture, such as freshwater availability, healthy soils, moderate temperatures, predictable weather patterns, stable markets and freedom from pests are changing in ways that are difficult to predict. Uncertainty makes planning and decision making more difficult for individual farmers as well as for planning agencies, incentive programs, and pest management. Adaptation practices that can be implemented and provide tangible benefits are very much needed for our tropical, diverse, and smaller scale agricultural activities.
During the last fiscal year, that ended in September 2016, we worked with many agencies and institutions to provide up-to-date climate science and deliver adaptation information to a wide range of stakeholders. We provided workshops and hosted events, including the visit to Puerto Rico of USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack. Secretary Vilsack met with farmers, scientists, the financial community, and the press and public interested in sustainable agriculture. He encouraged us to develop information and outreach that helps farmers in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands and contributes to sustainable agriculture and forestry throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. Here are a few of the accomplishments of the USDA Caribbean Climate Hub for fiscal year 2016:
- We initiated a collaboration among the Caribbean Climate Hub, nongovernmental organizations Bosque Modelo and el Josco Bravo, and five University of Puerto Rico professors to develop a series of trainings and on-farm demostrations on climate resilient practices for tropical farmers. The workshops will start in 2017 and will involve knowledge sharing and peer-to-peer learning with products being developed that can be used for future distance learning activities.
- With colleagues, we made new connections and developed new approaches to communicate science and practices for climate change adaptation and mitigation. The video series ADAPTA is an example of the educational products we are developing to communicate climate change science and viable adaptation practices for tropical farmers. The first video of the series focused on Cattle & Dairy Farming and the second on Plantains & Vegetables. The two upcoming videos will focus on permaculture and coffee production, so stay tuned! We also developed a podcast series about agriculture and climate change in collaboration with the Agricultural Experiment Station Library through their program “Desde la EEA”.
- We partnered with the Caribbean Landscape Conservation Cooperative (CLCC) and the Office of Insular Affairs to develop a draft report: ‘Synthesis of Climate Change Related Knowledge and Information in the United States Virgin Islands: An Institutional Analysis’ which provides baseline information for the Virgin Islands Climate Change Council as they develop more explicit climate vulnerability assessments in several sectors, including agriculture.