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Seeding the future: Climate-smart agricultural practices hold high hopes
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Seeding the future: Climate-smart agricultural practices hold high hopes

October 26, 2020

Kirti Manian (01:02): Hi Ana Maria, welcome to our show. We are delighted to have you with us. I am going to get started by asking you this. What was your starting point on your climate change journey?

Ana Maria (01:12): So, my starting point…. So, let me go a little bit backwards. I studied economics as an undergrad. Then I did Master in economics, and then I went to Los Angeles, UCLA to do a PHD in economics. And I did my PHD, and actually the topic of my dissertation wasn’t really related to climate change or environmental issues. It was more on economic modelling. So, in general model, computable general equilibrium models, and using models to address questions such as understanding economic grades in Colombia because of their decentralization process and so on and so forth. 

So, this is just to say that during my PHD I, I was not related to climate change, but then I was, when I was finishing just my dissertation, I was still living in the United States. The person that was leading the environmental unit at the National Planning Department at that time, he wanted to do something very similar to what the, is termed review deed which was basically addressing and understanding the economics of climate change. And perhaps I’ll tell you a little bit about the National Planning Department because it’s a very interesting institution that we have in Colombia. It’s somehow the technical counterpart of each one of the ministries in Colombia. So, it’s what, where you have more the technical side and the institution is also in-charge on formulating public policy thinking about the long run. 

So, he wanted to hire an economist, recently graduated PHD economist to start implementing a model to try to understand then economic impact of climate change in Colombia in the different sectors. And somehow, what he wanted was to start a closer conversation with the Ministry of Finance in Colombia. And therefore, it was very important that an economist would be leading this effort so that they could see that the finances in the country could have drastic impacts because of climate change, and that they could have started taking a little bit more seriously climate change issues in Colombia. So, he was looking for an economist that perhaps was not much contaminated with the things that usually economists do in general in Colombia. 

That has changed, and that’s a good thing. But at that time good economists who were recognized economists were not doing environmental issues. now they are. So, he wanted to have a young economist with a PHD to start leading this work. So, I said great, I have heard about the issues in relation to climate change. 

And it was, at that point in my career it was perfect for me because during my PHD, I realized that I wanted to continue doing research. But I wanted my research to have some kind of impact on people, on livelihoods. So, not just being able to publish a paper in a very good top journal, but being really concrete about the outcomes of my research. And I think that I saw many professors doing my PHD that were really clever, great, great people, but spending so much time trying to figure out questions and answers in relation to some things that were so far away from really touching the lives of people.

So, for me it was perfect. I started my PHD with a scholarship from the Central Bank of Colombia. And one of their requirements was that I had to go back to Colombia to work either for the public sector or for the University in Colombia. So, going back to Colombia to work for the National Planning Department and starting leading this economic study on climate change for me was great. And so, therefore, I started working on that, I went back to Colombia when I finished my dissertation. And then I didn’t stop. That was back in twenty o’ eight (2008) and from then I haven’t stopped working on climate change issues. 

Kirti Manian (05:39): I have to say Ana Maria, I love that you felt at that time itself that whatever research you did needed to have impact, and I think that’s so, so important right. Like, I think with climate change being such a big issue, how best can we translate that into work that impacts livelihoods and people especially right. And you talked about that, you said ground reality. That’s so important, so, so important to keep that in mind because there are real people being affected by things that you are thinking about and policies that you are making right. It sounds fabulous. 

Moving onto my next question. You said you haven’t stopped since twenty o’ eight (2008) and you are now the Research Director of Climate Action at CIAT, you are Head of Global Policy Research for CGIAR’ research program on climate change, agriculture and food security in Cali. Can you talk us through your roles and responsibilities, and what role is your organization specifically playing in the fight against climate change? 

Ana Maria (06:33): Okay, thank you very much for the question. So, let me go back a little, and I will start saying a few words about the CGIAR, that’s the big institution that I worked for. CGIAR is, if you could say in a sentence, is the world’s largest global agricultural innovation network. And it’s composed of thousands of partners, and one of those is this network of international research institutes doing research on different topics in relation to agriculture to agro-forestry and forestry to water to fish to biodiversity to food policies. In general, we have fifteen of them, even though there have been some alliances and I will go back to this.

But this is the CGIAR. So, primarily I work for the CGIAR. The CGIAR has a very clear vision in terms of contributing to having a world free of poverty, hunger and environmental degradation. So, that’s very important. 

And then I just mentioned these research institutes that are part of this CGIAR. So, one of those institutes which was formally established January this year as an alliance of two of the previous institutes that are part of the CGIAR is this alliance between Bioversity International and the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture, CIAT. As I just mentioned this is an alliance that was formally a structure and started working January this year. And at the alliance we have also a very clear vision, and what we want to do through our work is to contribute to having food systems and landscapes that sustain the planet, that drive prosperity and nourish people. And we basically work at the intersection of agriculture, nutrition and the environment. So, that’s the alliance vision. And I work for the alliance. 

So, I work for the CGIAR and also as part of this alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT. And then within the alliance we have a very nice research structure where we have six levers which are basically research programs where we work. And I lead the climate action lever in the alliance. And we also have a very clear vision. And this is basically what I do through my leadership under the climate action lever. So, basically, what we do is that we combine, we develop and we apply sound science around climate change adaptation and mitigation under a food system approach. But we do this with a very specific purpose. Through this combining, developing and applying, we want to be able to unlock public and private finance. We want to foster policies and drive institutional changes so that this can produce innovation, investment and action to address the climate emergency.

Within the climate action lever, we have sub-levers that deal with different parts in terms of the research that we do. So, we have one for climate resilient food systems; the other one that addresses low emissions food systems. Then we have one for policies and institutions for climate action; then one that goes more into the finance and investments for climate action; and final one that is cross cutting regulation to data science for climate action. 

And therefore, a lot of my role, as you asked me, it’s leading this body of work, and somehow is making sure that I am mainstreaming climate action in the food system for adaptation and mitigation. So, everything that is starting the alliance in relation to the research that we deliver includes this issue on climate change and the climate emergency. 

Obviously, I also work in terms of coming up with good partnerships in order to deliver our vision, the alliance vision, and also in terms of resource mobilization so that we can generate this knowledge and generate impact. In general, I help the alliance in terms of advance in efforts to develop a unified and very well managed, agile and innovative research organization that is able to respond to the climate emergency. So, that’s one part of my role that I do through the alliance.

And then I also work for the CGIAR, research program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security. This is called CCAFS, and it’s a cross cutting program working with all the fifteen centres that I mentioned at the beginning, that are a part of the CGIAR. And in CCAFS, I am the head of global policy research. As such I work in terms of developing innovative partnerships and fostering capacity building so that we can contribute to a scaling climate smart agriculture and reaching many, many stakeholders from food systems around the world.  

And this role implies also being engaged in main projects for CCAFS and in general initiatives. For instance, the one that I have been working in the past two years is this transformation initiative. It’s, basically, the rationale behind this transformation initiative is that we are not going to be able to reach the sustainable development goals by 2030 and the Paris agreement, if we continue doing the things the same way that we have been doing. So, it’s trying to bring a consensus, and we have been working with hundreds of partners in terms of understanding what are those key actions that need to happen very soon so that we can transform food systems so that they can respond to the climate challenge. 

Kirti Manian (12:34): Ana Maria, I have to say, your work sounds extremely challenging, you are multitasking furiously, I think. And all of it sounds like amazing work, especially when you talk about reaching across various partnerships to understand how best can food systems respond to climate change. As it’s with every podcast guest I talk to, I feel an impending sense of doom. So, I am very, very hopeful to hear that all your work will hopefully result in, in things that will bring about change.

I want to talk about what climate change means in Colombia now, and can you maybe tell us more about what are the kind of key issues that your country is being faced with? 

Ana Maria (13:13): Sure. So, let me start by saying that in the last decades, one of the engines of Colombia’s GDP growth has been the mining and the oil sector. And in particular our economy has benefited from high oil prices. But this growth rate has helped the country to reduce poverty, unemployment, increased coverage in relation to social security services. But as I just mentioned, this has generated this way of growing; the economy has generated attention between economic growth, environmental degradation and climate change. 

So, of course, in order to achieve economic and social development, the country needs to continue growing. But the key question is how to continue with this economic growth at the same time that we preserve our natural resources and ecosystem services; and most important, that we grow in a way that is climate resilient both thinking about climate change. So, long-term changes in climate variables, but also climate viability. 

So, just to tell you, in other words, having a growth that is damaging our water resources is not compatible with a climate resilient pathway. Why? Because climate change and variability means that weather or better the lack or excess of water will become each time more a limiting factor for Colombian economic sectors, agriculture, transport, energy, infrastructure.

So, going back to the engines of economic rate in Colombia, it is accurate to say that this growth has come attached with an environmental cost that is also significant for Colombia’s growth rate. According to two studies, the costs of environmental degradation in Colombia go up to 3. 7% of GDP. So, in this same direction, this context of economic growth and environmental degradation exhibits a pattern of land use that has increased the risks associated with hydro meteorological events, and with hydro meteorological events meaning floods, droughts, hail storms, wind storms, heavy rains, all of this. So, very important, the way that we have been growing has created more risks in terms of these events. Just to give you some numbers. Colombia has the highest rate in Latin America of recurring disasters because of natural phenomena. We have more than six hundred events per year. And also, Colombia is ranked ten in terms of economic risks because of two or more hazards associated with disasters.

So, to put it in normal words, around 84% of the population and 86% of the assets in Colombia are located in areas exposed to two or more natural hazards. Something very relevant, if you compare the period twenty o’ six-twenty o’ nine (2006-2009) to the period twenty ten-twenty thirteen (2010-2013), the number of events classified as hydro meteorological, the ones that I just mentioned, increased by 2.5 times. And this is very relevant in terms of climate variability because what we have learnt is that Colombia has a high incidence of extreme events with growing emergencies associated with climate conditions. 

Just to give you an example, the heavy rains due to the twenty ten (2010) and twenty eleven (2011) La Niña event resulted in an estimated six billion dollars in damages to crops and infrastructure as well as millions of displacements and hundreds of deaths. So, Colombia is at high risk from climate change impacts. Something very relevant, again, the way that we have been growing. The majority of the population lives in the elevated Andes, the mountains, and changes in the hydrological systems are putting a risk to people that live in this Andes. We are already observing water shortages and land instability that are going to become worse because of climate variability. Also, the majority of the population in Colombia live on the coast where the increase in sea level and floods because of climate change can affect key human settlements and economic activities.

And last thing that I would say is that, ‘coz I just, I mentioned the whole story with respect to adaptation, so, how changes in climate and how climate variability can affect Colombia’s economy. But also, the other side of the story is, if we are contributing or not to generate climate change. So, what about the greenhouse gas emissions that are generating this problem. So, very important, Colombia, it’s not that it’s burning a lot of fossil fuels, because most of our energy and electricity is generated through water. So, we are very clean with respect to that. But the way that we are contributing to climate change in Colombia is through deforestation. 

So, according to the third national communication of Colombia, this sector of agriculture, forestry and land use changes is contributing fifty-five percent of all the greenhouse emissions in Colombia. And the most important in this category is the changes in land because of deforestation. So, all these issues are the ones that Colombia needs to deal with in relation to the climate challenge. 

Kirti Manian (19:15): It sounds like it’s a multitude of challenges literally speaking. So, then, how is the government reacting to climate change right? I happened to read, you were involved in the formulation of the Colombian climate change policy, the National Adaptation Development plans, as well as you coordinated technical support for the Colombian low carbon strategy. Can you tell us more about your work in this please?

Ana Maria (19:37): Sure., yeah, it is very interesting because I was part of that process. So, in Colombia, Colombia very much started as many other countries started in terms of addressing the climate challenge, and it was through the mitigation side of things. So, the mitigation is how we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the ones that are responsible for this climate change. So, Colombia very much started through that, and it’s policy was very much in line with seeing how can we motivate these actions that can reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Colombia while promoting the development of the country. 

But then it changed, and at that point it was, when I was working for the government in Colombia for the national planning department, basically, what we wanted to was to be able to say, even though climate change is very important in terms of environmental issues, this is something that is going to affect every single sector in Colombia, not only the environmental sector. So, a little bit of what at that point called mainstreaming climate change into everything, that was what we were trying too. And therefore, starting from them, Colombia really started developing a very comprehensive policy framework for its climate change policy across different levels of government which is very important. So, going all the way from the national, regional and going to the municipal level. 

In twenty eleven (2011) when I was working for the national planning department, the national council for social and economic policy issued what is called the compass three seven zero zero on climate change. And this compass basically outlined the institutional strategy for the articulation of policies and actions on the issue of climate change. Building on this compass three seven zero zero, several plans, strategies and activities emanated. 

So, just to give you some examples, we have a law for climate change, and in this law, we provide the guidelines for climate change management. Then we have also the national policy on climate change. The formulation of this policy began in twenty fourteen (2014) and the idea of this policy is to articulate all the efforts that has been taking place in the country through different initiatives and incorporate new elements in order to be able to comply which was agreed in the Paris agreement. So, it was basically getting all the pieces together and trying to address how can we implement actions in relation to adaptation to climate change and in relation to mitigation. 

We also have the low carbon development strategy. This strategy seeks to decouple the country’s economic growth from greenhouse gas emissions so that we can continue growing, as I just mentioned but without increasing our greenhouse gas emissions. 

Then we have also the national plan for adaptation to climate change. The purpose of this plan is to reduce the country’s vulnerability and increase its capacity to respond to the threats and impacts of climate change. 

We also have the national redd plus (REDD+) strategy. REDD+ is a united nations pact framework that aims to slow climate change by halting the destruction of forests. 

We also have a financial strategy to reduce the fiscal vulnerability of the state to the occurrence of a natural disaster. As I already mentioned in my previous question, this is a great challenge for Colombia in terms of increase in the damages because of these natural disasters, and therefore,  we have a financial strategy to reduce the vulnerability of the government to these kinds of events. 

Then we have also the National Climate Change system that is called SISCLIMA. This SISCLIMA is made up of a state, private and non-private entities, policies, standards, processes, resources, strategies, tools et cetera, and it has several windows. This national climate change system is somehow the institutional infrastructure that Colombia put in place to really be able to respond to the climate emergency. It has several windows. One is a territorial window which is very important through the climate change nodes. But then it has also another window in terms of agreeing on what is the role of Colombia in the international climate change negotiations, what is it’s position. It also has a window on financial issues. So, given that there is money that is coming into the country and also money that the government is allocated to climate change, what’s the best use of that money, or money allocated to response to the climate emergency. And it has also a scientific window where all the models, the analysis are run and are discussed so that we can respond better to this challenge.

We also have the National Development Plan for the country; the last which goes from twenty eighteen to twenty twenty-two (2018-2022) pact for Colombia, pact for equity. And basically, these national development plans are road marks that establish the government’s objectives, that set programs, investments and goals for the four-year period. This is relevant because in this national development plan, the government is emphasizing the importance of addressing the climate emergency through a green growth strategy for the country.

And then we have another very relevant piece of this puzzle which is the Colombia National Determined Contribution. The National Determined Contributions are these commitments that the different countries that are part of the united nations framework for climate change, and that we commit to specific things in relation to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. So, Colombia’s NDC contains an unconditional economic wide reduction pledge of twenty percent versus a business’s usual scenario in twenty thirty (2030), as well as up to thirty percent below businesses usually in 2030 conditional to sufficient international support.

Lastly, we have a carbon tax as well. So, starting the first of January twenty seventeen (2017), each person in Colombia needs to pay a fixed amount of money for each CO2 ton that is generated because of the burning of fossil fuels. 

So, as you can see, we have laws, we have policies, we have our tax, we have plans, we have all the pieces of the puzzle together. We really need to start implementing those. 

Kirti Manian (26:16): It sounds fantastic, like all the various policies you outlined. The government seems to have got its act together. Sometimes I feel when you talk to different podcast guests, it doesn’t always feel that way.. The government is like, we need to fix this and this is how we are going to do it. It seems to have plans in place and hopefully implementation is there as well. 

So, I want to talk about climate smart agriculture now. And I read a report in CNBC about the Cauca Climate-Smart village project. Could we categorize this as scaling up of the whole process of climate smart agriculture?

Ana Maria (26:50): Yeah, that’s a very relevant question. The Climate-Smart villages in Cauca, this is the way that it is called. And this is part of this CGIAR research program on climate change, agriculture and food security, CCAFS. We have these climate smart villages in many countries around the world. And the idea of these climate smart villages, and this is what is happening in Cauca, Colombia. It’s really been able to work with the communities to start understanding what is the potential for different climate smart agriculture practices and technologies. And it’s not only thinking about the practice and the technology, but it’s also really understanding how these technologies and practices interact with very context specific variables such as social, cultural, political, institutional. And therefore, by doing this analysis with the communities by understanding how these social, economic and political variables interact with these technologies and practices trying to get some recommendations and learnings on how those climate smart agriculture technologies and practices can be expanded so that many farmers around the world can benefit for those. 

But this is the thing about climate smart agriculture that it is very context specific. So, something that works in this specific region. It could be the case that it’s not going to work as well in that other specific region. And therefore, that’s, this is the importance of these climate smart villages that we are really testing and evaluating and implementing with the communities these practices in order to understand under which specific circumstances these practices work or not. Once that we have a good understanding for those, we have enough arguments and evidence to be able to talk to other kind of stakeholders either from the government’s side, from the financial side, that can help us in order to promoting this scaling of climate smart agriculture. 

So, answering to your question, yes, we are seeing, and this has proven to be really powerful in terms of generating the evidence that is needed so that many people around the world really benefit from these climate smart agriculture practices and technologies.

Kirti Manian (29:23): Thank you for that. I want to talk about food security also in this context. Now I pulled this from USAID’s website, and it talked about food security in Colombia. It talked about internal conflict. Of course, you described the national disasters that keep happening. And it also talked about the influx of vulnerable Venezuelans and Colombian returnees crossing over inter- Colombia because of the crisis in Venezuela which affects food security. And of course, and looming large over all this is COVID-19. How have all these factors affected food security in Colombia? 

Ana Maria (29:56): Yes, certainly, all these factors really affect potentially the country’s food security. Let me give you some numbers. According to the regional inter-agency coordination platform for refugees and migrants of Venezuela, about 1.8 million Venezuelans and five hundred thousand (500,000) Colombians who previously lived in Venezuela have been forced to come to Colombia in search of new opportunities and in search of food. This is obviously something that puts the country’s food security at risk. 

According to the same source, in twenty-twenty (2020), it is estimated that it will be necessary to provide humanitarian assistance to about three million people affected by the regional crisis in Venezuela of which, from those three million, 1.8 million will also need food assistance. 

Also, another piece of information that is very relevant. The United Nations has estimated that in Colombia, 5.1 million people will need humanitarian assistance and 2.4 million of these five million will also need food and nutritional assistance due to internal violence and natural disasters. The internal armed conflict in Colombia that has been going for too long, and that hopefully we are coming to an end, but this has limited the access of many farmers to crops, to livelihoods, to goods or public services, and this for many vulnerable households represents a great risk for food security. 

Likewise, the high unemployment rate has caused displaced people to have greater limitations when it comes to accessing quality food, which is very important because it’s not only the quantity of food, but the quality as well.

Kirti Manian (31:43): Yeah…

Ana Maria (31:44): Now with respect to…

Kirti Manian (31:44): Absolutely…

Ana Maria (31:45): …COVID-19, in the current situation, more than the health issues which obviously Colombia has suffered a lot from the deaths because of COVID. But it’s also very important to take into account that the lockdown, the confinement measures established by the national government have become a great threat to food security since many Venezuelans in Colombia even before COVID-19 were in very vulnerable situation depending on their salaries to survive. And now that the economies that have stopped, that this is decelerating all these people that lost their jobs. They have been very, very much affected. And potentially this is already ongoing and it’s going to affect each time more their food security. 

Kirti Manian (32:31): Wow. The way you have described, it sounds very similar to the situation in India very honestly. Lockdown is affecting economic security, it’s affecting farmers doing the job, it’s affecting the food supply itself. And obviously it’s inevitably, rather you know it’s the vulnerable populous that gets affected. 

I want to move on to women in agriculture in Colombia. Now, I read about ASOPASFU. This sounds like a brilliant project, the stories coming from there sound so powerful. Can you talk more about the project itself, and are there similar projects planned and what more needs to be done to help women feel more empowered in this area?

Ana Maria (33:10): Sure. So, ASOPASFU is the ‘Asociación de Agricultores, Productores Pecuarios, Piscicultores y Ambientalistas de Pasifueres’. It is an amazing project that has helped women from the pasifueres community to join forces, to work together and contribute to the recovery of nine hundred hectares of wetlands in the area, benefitted more than four thousand people. It’s a really nice, nice project. There are many like this in Columbia.

Another example is ASOMUCADI for instance. This is a legally constituted organization which aims to promote the empowerment of rural women through the production and commercialization of coffee and some of its derivatives in Argelia in Cauca, which is one of the municipalities that has been most affected and for releasing crops. 

So many, many, many examples of this. But it is important to say that even though we have those initiatives that are tackling this issue with respect to women participation, inclusion, equity, many women living in rural areas are still facing very hard conditions in their territories. So, something that is relevant from a study from the Ministry of Agriculture, they did a study between twenty ten (2010) and twenty eleven (2011). The outlook was not very encouraging for these women. So, according to this study there are still 5.1 million women living in rural areas that are facing very hard conditions. They have to take care of households, they also have to take care of their crops without any remuneration. And then with climate change and climate variability the things are becoming even worse. 

Something that is really relevant that came out from that study is that women are at a disadvantage in this sector, since for example, only seven percent of these have received technical assistance for their crops compared to ten percent for men. Even though it’s very low, the technical assistance in agriculture is very low in Colombia. But then you can’t see these differences that are obviously that are impeding women to be well prepared for an improve in terms of their crops. 

There are other cultural and social elements such as access to education in which women are in disadvantage with respect to men, health, quality of the information, there is also gender violence. So, all these things increase their vulnerability. 

So, bottom line, even though there are some really nice examples in Colombia that are addressing this, we need to work harder with respect to this. It is essential that the government create rural policies with gender approaches, aimed at reducing inequality, because there is, as I mentioned, it’s still a lot of challenges to be addressed with respect to this. 

Kirti Manian (35:58): So, you played perfectly well into my next question in that sense you know. I was going to ask about politics and policy. You have outlined a whole lot of policies that the government is doing with regards to solving climate change, and you have addressed women in agriculture. 

Can you tell us a little bit more about what the government needs to do to help organizations like yours? And then can you talk to us also about bridging the gap between science and policy please within this context. 

Ana Maria (36:22): Yeah, so, just let me tell you a short story about something that was really interesting in Colombia in terms of bridging that gap between science and policy. And this was in relation to the process of formulating the National Determined Contribution in Colombia at that point when they intended National Determined Contribution back in twenty fifteen (2015).

So, since I used to work before, previously to joining the CGIAR, I used to work for the government. I had a lot of networking with respect to that. And then I was on the other side of the story. But that was really useful in terms of really being able to bridge this gap. And this, we have gotten now a complete relation to this because when the government was inviting people to write their NDC, there was a lot of challenges in terms of their forestry sector. In terms of the data there was not an agreement. And at some point, from the government’s side they said, we are not going to include the forestry sector in our NDC target. And for me that was a real mistake because including that in the NDC opened the door for a lot of opportunities in terms of implementing actions to preserve our forests.

Kirti Manian (37:34): Yeah.

Ana Maria (37:35): So, at that point, CCAFS that I worked for, this CGIAR research program, I started working really nice as a broker between one of our research institutes IFPRI which is the international institute for food policy research, and they had generated really nice mitigation and scenarios for the forestry sector. Basically, they had developed highly disaggregated analysis of low emissions development strategies considering different scenarios. And it was a perfect compliment to the capabilities of the University at Los Angeles which is the university in Colombia that was advising the government in terms of these targets.

So, somehow CCAFS was a broker between these two and between the government. And after many, many discussions, after many workshops, dialogues et cetera, the government agreed to use this analysis to inform the target of the NDC in relation to the forestry sector, and the forestry became part of this. It was one of the sectors that was part of this target. 

So, it was a really interesting result because you as a scientist where you, whenever these things happen, it’s just you are so happy because the policies is really using that scientific results in this case, the results of the models in terms of informing a very specific policy decision. 

We even wrote a paper in relation to this process. One of the things that we highlight in this paper is just like main key elements or key elements, sorry, for success of this bridging the gap between science and policy. First of all, we highlight the importance of sustained and open consultation process with all the stakeholders, and that what was happened at that time. Also, very, very relevant, being able to generate usable science, the science that can be applied and used and willingness to create disciplinary and institutional barriers. Having a champion, it’s also very important and flexibility and the availability of resources.

Something, I am responding to your question, something that we have used in CCAFS that have proven to be really, really useful is that we have used this three thirds principle. So, we proposed that an effective agricultural research for development program invests a third of its resources in working with next users to build their relationships and to define their needs from research. So, inviting them to be part of this conversation in terms of whether there are research questions. So, one third of budget should be allocated to that, one third should be allocated on research because of course we need to do the research. And the less third needs to be allocated on enhancing next users’ capacity so as to improve the uptake of their research. 

So, again, going back to your question, I think that what we need is to work closer, and these institutions such as CCAFS are perfect to be like these brokers that can communicate very well with the scientific world, but that can communicate also very well with the policy making world being able or helping them to connect and to engage in a dialogue. 

Kirti Manian (40:45): It sounds like a win-win you know, the government is listening to science and science is willing to help the government and policy makers and decide for its own benefit right. That is because the policies they decide are going to affect the people who are living in terms of ground reality. So, it sounds like an absolute win-win. 

I want to understand about the climate change narrative and how that is being presented by the media to ordinary Colombians. And does this need to be changed, are ordinary Colombians aware of what is happening, do they attribute it to climate change or is it just oh, it’s a natural disaster and that is that.

Ana Maria (41:19): So, I guess that in general, social media in Columbia I could say, and I would say that does not offer enough information so that ordinary Colombians can perceive the magnitude, the consequences and the possible solutions of climate change in the country. The information that is shared by the media is very much related to natural disasters, to droughts, to floods, to hazards, bring much alarm is and you could say since as journalist. I believe that the media should be offering more stories than that provide hope where ordinary people are leading exciting initiatives, the stories that can move the emotions of people, the stories that are close to people so that ordinary Colombians can relate to those stories. 

I think that social media in Columbia should provide more information on how you and I can be part of the solution, that climate change adaptation and mitigation is also in our hands. We need information that can educate and that can become a call for action, also, that can help to move people. And this is very important to request more aggressive action from politicians and decision makers on this issue.

Of course, there are some examples in Colombia such as a newspaper that is El Espectador, annually publishes around five hundred articles on the issues related to health, the environment, science. So, we have exceptions, but we still need a long way to go with respect to this. And something very relevant, this was a survey implemented in twenty sixteen (2016) by IDEAM and UNDP in Colombia, and it showed that only fifteen percent of Colombia felt informed of climate change. So, seventy-five percent of Colombia felt very little informed or totally uninformed in relation to climate change. 

Kirti Manian (43:07): Oh gosh!

Ana Maria (43:08): And I think that something very relevant in another study was that, this study found that many sources of news on climate change are coming from politicians. So, thirty-seven percent of that witnesses, twenty percent scientific experts, only fourteen percent. So, I think that still there is an imbalance in relation to that. 

I think that if I could summarize, although the media in Colombia is covering the events related to climate change and impacts, it’s reaching only fifteen percent of the population mainly through television and through radio. There is still a need to refine certain things when presenting the information. We need it to be more accurate and that it really can become a way for concrete actions to begin to take place in this field. 

Kirti Manian (43:57): So, in connection with this, like we talk about climate strikers. You know kids are around the world who are striking for climate. And so, is informed activism a thing in Colombia, and do you actually feel that this kind of activism in terms of you know what Greta Thunberg is doing, you had the Sunrise Movement, all these kinds of movements. Do you think this kind of activism has an impact, will it tell, give that feeling of empathy to people, the remaining seventy-five percent of Colombians who don’t get this information, do you think by or participating in informed activism that change will happen? 

Ana Maria (44:33): Yeah, totally, I totally agree. I think that in recent years Colombia, climate activism has increased. A proof of this is the protest that took place in September 2019, one year ago in which thousands of people from different cities in the country joined their voices to be part of this global strike and protest to demand urgent measures to stop this environmental catastrophe. So, that’s happening. We have also youth driven campaigns that have been developed through social networks. 

One thing that is missing is that not everybody has the Internet in Colombia, there are some people that do not have social networks, lose their effectiveness. But something really interesting is that for this reason in rural areas, young activists have joined towards, and music as means to transmit their messages and demand a strong action from the government in the face of these problems caused by climate change.

Obviously, there is still a long way to go in terms of having more of this activism, but in general, I think that this is totally fundamental to deliver this change that needs to happen to address the climate emergency. In the transformation report that I just mentioned at my first or second question, and then we highlight these eleven actions for transforming food systems and their climate change. One of those actions was in relation to this, to drive social change for more sustainable decisions with a very specific target. We aim with the collaboration of many partners around the world to reach ten million young people by twenty twenty-five (2025) through science-based social movements to catalyse climate action and food systems. And we do this because we totally believe that for a transformation in food systems to take place, behavioural change on a large scale is necessary. We know the way from producers to consumers, and we believe that social movements have the power to trigger this transformation. 

Let me just finish by highlighting high key actions from our perspective in terms of how to link science to social movements to support this transformation. 

First one, we need to use behavioural science to decide interventions, understand how people can behave in a different way. Second, we need to translate scientific knowledge for a broad audience through the media, through different ways. Third, we need to communicate messages in innovative ways, the arts, the music. Four, we really need to bring youth into these discussions. And finally, we need to improve education in order to raise a voice.

Kirti Manian (47:08): It all sounds like actionable tasks. It’s just a challenge of reaching teenagers and youth who are more interested in, maybe not so interested in climate, it’s always a tough one I think. But I find it very inspiring myself just to see how kids have actually taken up the cudgels in a sense, that we need this to be dealt with, and are demanding. It’s not just saying we want action, but they are demanding action from governments, and I think it’s a very, very powerful thing to happen. 

And going to my last question now, how do we look at tackling climate change, is it about individual action, is it only about government policy, what is your call of action, what do you think is the one thing that we need to do in that sense is? 

Ana Maria (47:51): So, let me start by saying that the time to act is now, this is urgent. We need to start doing things now because if not, it’s going to be too late. So, that’s my first message. 

Second one, we all need to be part of this. Thinking about this transformation of food systems to address the climate emergency, we all have a role to do in this. So, that’s my second message. 

And my third one is that, I believe that science, policy and finance need to join forces to really propose and implement enabling solutions for climate change challenges. We need to work on the interaction of these three, science, policy and finance.

Kirti Manian (48:35): Thank you so much. That’s a very powerful thought to end on, right. You have said it very, very well. Thank you so much for your insightful answers Ana Maria. I am sure our listeners have all learnt a whole lot about what’s happening in Colombia, how the government is dealing with it and the challenges you, yourself are facing. So, thanks again for your time. We really appreciate it. 

Ana Maria (48:56): No problem, very happy to be with you.  

About the Certificate
12 weeks long. Between 6-10 hours of time commitment every week
Each class is just 20-25 learners with extensive skills, background, passion
Instructor & Teaching Assistants available via Zoom, Slack and email
100% online, with 5-7 expert live talks. All available for later viewing
See Curriculum
Climate Change: Learning for Action
Interactive program with an instructor walking you through the paces
12 Weeks

Next cohort starts

February 2021
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* If you work at a non-profit, let us know when you apply

Frequently asked questions
Who would benefit most from this program?
Anyone who wants a grand overview of the entire climate landscape. Anyone who wants to shift their time & energy into doing climate work.
What if I don't like the program?
If you're less than 3 weeks into the program, we'll refund you 100%. Our only request would be to give us feedback so we can improve the program.
Will the classes fit my schedule?
Yes. Most of the classes are asynchronous so you can decide when to go through them during the week. Our expectation is that everyone will be back in sync when a new week starts. The main live elements are the expert talks which will also be recorded for later viewing.
Is there a credential at the end of the program?
Yes. We'll give you something to prove that you completed this program. However, we're hoping you're doing this program for the intrinsic love of solving climate change.
I can't afford the program cost. Can I get help?
We want all qualified learners to apply, regardless of financial status. Let us know about your financial need when you apply and we'll do our best.
Are you going to be running more cohorts?
Yes. We currently expect to run more cohorts in Oct & Dec 2020.
More Questions?