Small scale Nicaraguan farmers confront the climate crisis on a daily basis
On Earth Day we celebrate the actions of Nicaraguan small scale farmers to cool the planet and confront the climate emergency for which they are least responsible.
In the lead up to COP26 will the actions of the largest polluters go beyond their rhetoric and fully address the scale of the crisis faced on a daily basis by people and the environment in vulnerable countries such as Nicaragua?
Nicaragua is one example of a small developing country suffering the worst impacts of the climate crisis despite being responsible for only 0.03% of global carbon emissions. These impacts include the insecurity of unpredictable weather extremes in a country that is already one of the most impoverished in the Americas.
Stronger and more frequent hurricanes are just one consequence of the climate crisis engulfing the world. Catastrophic weather events such as two hurricanes of unprecedented strength and frequency that struck Nicaragua in 2020 have profound, wide-reaching implications. These ‘spectacular’ events are deemed very temporarily newsworthy.
Small scale farmers such as those in Nicaragua have to confront the climate crisis on a daily basis. This is not confined to events such as hurricanes but also includes equally debilitating long-term impacts of rising temperatures which are largely ignored. One of these is the way in which global warming combined with the monoculture of agribusiness is exacerbating crop diseases.
Coffee rust is a fungus affecting ‘arabica’ coffee bushes causing defoliation. Once it takes hold it is extremely difficult to control. This means that farmers have to destroy the bushes, replant, and wait at least three years before being able to harvest again. In 2014-2015 Nicaragua small scale farmers producing nearly half of Nicaragua’s coffee lost 40% of their harvest due to coffee rust with devastating social and economic consequences.
Hurricanes, droughts and crop diseases: the consequences for small farmers
The Co-operative Union SOPPEXCCA, located in northern Nicaragua and is made up of 650 producer members organised into 16 co-operatives.
It is based on an organisational model of inclusion of families to achieve equality, social and economic justice and the fair distribution of resources. Members of SOPPEXCCA grow Fair trade organic coffee for export and fruit and vegetables for their own consumption and to sell locally.
These factors in turn have deep direct and indirect consequences for the social an economic well-being of SOPPEXCCA producers, their communities and the wider society.
Social : reduction in income, unemployment, migration, food insecurity, increase in poverty
Economic: lower productivity, increase in costs
Environmental: deforestation, loss of biodiversity, increase in pollution
Cooling the planet: the example of SOPPEXCCA small scale Nicaraguan farmers
This includes extensive reafforestation, especially important after the hurricanes; establishing areas of agro-forestry with hardwoods for timber, fruit and banana palms; diversification of production to include cacao, honey and basic grains to improve food security and increase the income of families; setting up an organic composting plant; and implementing processes for drying coffee in the sun to avoid using non-renewable energy.
The time for urgent climate action is NOW
In December 2020 UN general secretary Antonio Guterres stated that humans are waging a “suicidal” war against the natural world which is devastating our planet.
US climate envoy John Kerry has warned that the world is heading for ‘catastrophic’ global warming unless leaders act now.
Despite contributing little to the climate crisis Nicaragua and small scale farmers are already taking urgent action to address the crisis.
In the lead up to COP26 will the actions of the largest polluters go beyond their rhetoric and fully address the scale of the crisis faced by people and the planet?