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Cape Verde experiencing effects of climate change, officials say

Cabo Verde, an archipelago of ten islands, nine of which are inhabited, is a Small Island Developing State (SIDS) in West Africa. It is increasingly bearing the brunt of the effects of climate change.

In 2018, a severe drought hit the country where approximately one-quarter of the population relies on agriculture for their main income. Since then, rainfall has been scarcer and more unpredictable than in previous years prior, leading to a significant drop in food production and grazing land losses.

Coupled with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the important tourism sector, it culminated in a peak of food insecurity across the country in 2022.

Willy Gonçalves, 29-year-old from the Cabo Verde’s main island of Santiago is a manager of a plant nursery that he has worked on since he was nine-year-old. He witnessed first-hand the effects of climate change on the country’s agriculture.

“From 2017 onwards, we began to feel these climate changes more strongly here in Cabo Verde. We started having more pests, more difficulties and since then everything we’ve planted has been a struggle. Before, everything we planted we were able to harvest, now we can’t because of climate change,” said Willy Gonçalves, a farmer from Cape Verde.

Like most other SIDS, Cabo Verde relies heavily on imports: 80 percent of its food is imported. This makes the country’s food security vulnerable to worldwide shocks like conflicts or disasters.

Though food security has since improved, food production and agriculture are still suffering.

With the changes in climate, soil erosion has increased, and soil fertility plummeted, not to mention the explosion of plant pests in the country. The rising temperatures have made Cabo Verde a home where these new pests can thrive. Fall armyworm arrived in 2017 and has since wreaked havoc on maize crops. Fruit flies that attack mango harvests in particular, and tomato worms, named after their favored target, are other formidable foes.

Through FAO, Cabo Verde requested assistance in fighting these growing challenges. and that is exactly what China could offer, having lived through many of these challenges itself in the vastness of its own country.

“In the framework of our cooperation with FAO, we have a South-South partnership with China. This cooperation allows us to reinforce our producers’ and technicians’ capabilities, bring in technology, share knowledge and technology between China and Cabo Verde with FAO’s help,” said Gilberto Silva, the Minister for Agriculture and Environment in Cape Verde.

The South-South Cooperation project matches the technologies and experience of visiting countries with the needs and requests of host countries, transferring knowledge and expertise through partnership. China is passing on to Cabo Verde what it has learned in its own rural landscapes, remarkably similar to that of this small island’s interior.

The project has a pool of seven Chinese experts in different areas including pest management, soil and water management, fertilization and livestock production and they will work closely with Cabo Verdean farmers over the next three years.

“After the trials, we will establish a standard for biological pest control, which will be promoted in Cabo Verde. This will greatly improve the efficiency of crop pest control on a large scale, significantly reducing the yield losses caused by pests and ensuring an increase in food and horticultural crop production,” said Yanhua Zeng, a Chinese expert on horticulture and soil.

Cabo Verde, like many SIDS, imports the majority of its food products, including animal fodder. This makes the country very vulnerable to market shocks that affect food and feed prices, thus making increasing domestic fodder production an important task for the project.

The government of Cabo Verde highlighted the management of horticulture and soil fertility, plant protection and the improvement of animal production and enhancement of animal genetics as some priority areas for South-South Cooperation assistance. Later this year, there will also be a study on the potential of seaweed cultivation and value chain enhancement for this product.

Innovations, shared expertise and replicable practices are key to facing these challenges. With all countries battling climate change in different ways, it is critical that experiences and solutions are shared among them. Partnerships, like the FAO-Cabo Verde-China one, are helping bring everyday solutions to the country’s farmers and smallholder livestock producers.

“They are looking with Cabo Verdean eyes, bringing Chinese expertise. To me, this is unique, this is very valuable, because countries that have faced similar situations and they have found possible solutions come to share, working along day by day for three years,” said Ana Laura Touza, FAO Representative in Cabo Verde.

This is the way forward for the future of the island: finding more sustainable ways of using decreasing water resources, reducing reliance on imports and the sometimes-volatile prices and learning new methods for dealing with pests and other consequences of rising temperatures.

Source: africanews

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