Strengthening Resilience in Latin America

Photo Credit: CIAT/Neil Palmer

Climate change and agricultural diseases threaten the food security and livelihoods of many poor people in developing countries. IFPRI’s research in Latin America examined these environmental shocks, helping to bring the urgency of adaptation and mitigation to the forefront and to convince policy makers to act to build the poor’s resilience.

In the 2000s, little was known about the impact of climate change or climate-smart policies and technologies in Latin America. In 2009, IFPRI, in partnership with the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), evaluated the impact of climate change on agricultural production in Brazil, Mexico, and Peru using the forward-looking International Model for Policy Analysis of Agricultural Commodities and Trade (IMPACT). The study, Agriculture, Incomes, and Gender in Latin America by 2050: An Assessment of Climate Change Impacts and Household Resilience for Brazil, Mexico, and Peru, projected that the poor will suffer most from climate change because food available to sustain poor families will decrease with the decline of crop yields in Brazil and Peru and some staple crops in Mexico. This assessment informed climate change strategies in Mexico. In 2013, IFPRI’s research was used during discussions at the Mexican National Congress that led the Congress to make strong commitments to climate change adaptation and mitigation. A Senate member used IFPRI’s data and findings in an official communication to encourage support for sustainable development, management of natural resources, and food security in Mexico.

In Uruguay, access to agricultural insurance for smoothing income and production during extreme weather attributed to climate change has been limited, leaving many smallholder farmers exposed. In 2011, the Uruguayan Ministry of Agriculture, IDB, IFPRI, insurance company Banco de Seguros del Estado, weather agency Instituto Nacional de Meteorología, Universidad ORT, and survey firm Grupo RADAR designed and piloted a cutting-edge, flexible, and simple index-based insurance product providing coverage for select horticultural products in the southern region of Canelones. Initial findings from an evaluation of the pilot, which will be published in 2017, demonstrated that farmers became better educated about how to protect their financial stability and were better able to cope with climate-related shocks. In addition, the insurance product enhanced the Ministry of Agriculture’s efficiency in handling agricultural losses. By knowing exactly what is owed to farmers during crop failures, the ministry avoids long and costly negotiations and bargaining to determine payouts. The success of the pilot encouraged the Government of Uruguay to expand coverage to citrus crops and grains in other regions.

In 2012, a fungal infection affecting coffee plants— coffee rust—spread throughout Central America, resulting in an average 21 percent decline in harvest for the 2012/2013 season, and intensifying to 29 percent for the 2013/2014 season. Such a devastating disease not only affects yields, it also has a significant negative impact on poverty. IFPRI, with support from the IFPRI-led CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions, and Markets (PIM), partnered with IDB to measure the impact of coffee rust on poverty in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. The resulting report, Los Efectos de la Roya en las Economías Centroamericanas (The effects of coffee rust in Central American economies), also calculated the investment necessary to solve the coffee rust problem and to deliver social protection transfers to affected farming families. In its Review of the Bank Sector’s Support to Agriculture, 2002–2014: Evidence from Key Thematic Areas, IDB drew from IFPRI’s research on coffee rust to show gaps in national agricultural health and food safety in the region that caused substantial economic losses. IFPRI’s findings helped policy makers and large coffee producers realize the magnitude of the coffee rust problem, urging immediate and coordinated action.

For more information on IFPRI's research and partnerships in Latin America and the Caribbean, please go to this brochure.