NCBA CLUSA leads $15m project for climate-smart agriculture in Puerto Rico

The scheme is part of a USDA programme to help producers around the world adopt practices that reduce greenhouse gases and sequester carbon

US national co-op apex NCBA CLUSA has announced a USD$15m pilot project to build climate-smart markets in Puerto Rican agriculture.

Funded by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), the programme will help coffee, citrus fruits, plantains, bananas, cacao and lumber growers adopt climate-smart agriculture and forestry practices, by enabling them to quantify and verify outcomes for Climate-Smart Commodities (CSCs).

CSCs are defined by USDA as “any agricultural commodity that is produced using agricultural (farming, ranching, or forestry) practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions or sequester carbon”. In September it announced  $2.8bn in funding for partnerships for CSCs, as part of the US government’s climate strategy.

NCBA CLUSA will lead a number of partners in Puerto Rico – including co-ops, farmers and minority-serving institutions – through delivery of the project.

“Our co-operative financial institution partners will offer services to participating producer,” a spokesperson for the apex said, “and our co-operative grocer and marketing partners will build markets for CSCs. The market ecosystem we create for participating co-operatives and support organisations will allow farmers to continue implementing climate-smart agriculture and forestry strategies well beyond the life of the project.”

One such partner is Productores de Café de Puerto Rico (Procafé), which works with coffee farmers. Under the CSC project, Procafé will support its community of farmers with technical assistance, outreach and training, and will receive assistance and training from NCBA CLUSA. The project is expected to lead to large-scale adoption of a form of climate-smart agriculture called multi-storey cropping.

NCBA CLUSA will aso provide in-kind grant payments to 2,000 farmers across 10,000 acres to implement climate-smart agriculture and forestry strategies.

It is hoped that over the course of the project, these climate-smart practices will help coffee farmers in Puerto Rico increase their revenue from climate-smart coffee sales from approximately $14m to $50m by the end of the project

“Beyond the quantifiable benefits to farmers’ bottom lines,” added NCBA CLUSA, “the diversification of crops grown in multi-storey perennial cropping systems will increase resilience for smallholder Puerto Rican coffee farmers, their families and their communities. 

“Given that Puerto Ricans rely on imports for more than 85% of their food supply, farmers’ ability to expand into citrus, plantains, bananas, cacao and other crops for local and home consumption has significant economic and food security benefits.”

US secretary of agriculture Tom Vilsack said: “There is strong and growing interest in the private sector and among consumers for food that is grown in a climate-friendly way. … [This project] will increase the competitive advantage of U.S. agriculture both domestically and internationally, build wealth that stays in rural communities and support a diverse range of producers and operation types.”

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