Latin America Green News This Week: 7/14 - 7/20/2016

Food insecurity plaguing the region, Guatemalan town strives to become adaptation model, Mexico adds budget to mitigation efforts in Tabasco

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July 14  – July 20, 2016



Climate Change


As droughts continue to pose a threat to Latin America’s agricultural productivity, the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) warns that increases in temperature, change in precipitation patterns and elevated levels of carbon dioxide will continue to negatively impact crops and effect food security in the region, but in particular in Central America. Panama for example, has been plagued by a drought in the past year that has reduced production of major staple crops: rice, beans and corn. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said that intensifying droughts in coming years will threaten four important dimensions of food security: availability, access, utilization and stability of food. ECLAC recommends changing planting and harvesting times as a possible way for combating decreased productivity. (La Estrella 7/15/2016)


Guatemala’s Baja Verpaz municipality is building an agro-ecological center with the goal of becoming a model town for climate adaptation that can train others in climate change survival.  The center will be built with support from the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ) whose funds will be used to invest in consulting and training for the center. It is expected that the school will be ready in approximately a year and a half. In the meantime, the GIZ will help the people of Baja Verpaz by training them in earth-friendly practices such as avoiding the use of plastic bags and implementing improved stove practices that require less wood. (El Periodico 7/16/2016)


Mexico’s Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources, Rafael Pacchiano Alaman, announced that $163 million pesos worth of federal funds will be put towards climate change mitigation in the municipality of Tabasco. The funds will be used towards things like eco-friendly stoves, LED lights and car waste collectors. He explained the federal government is currently working on priority areas such as strengthening ecosystems and creating contingency plans against natural phenomena intensified by climate change such as hurricanes. (Terra 7/12/2016) 



Deforestation is largely to blame for deteriorating watersheds in Cochabamba, Bolivia. In studying some of the major problems associated with the deterioration of the region’s watersheds, the Integrated Watershed Management Program determined that seasonal agriculture is mostly responsible. The practice of slash and burn harms the soil, damaging its ability to absorb water, which in turn leads to stronger and higher-than-normal water flows, which can cause floods and disrupt the water filtering process. According to the head of the local Water Management Unit, Mauricio Ledezma, a watershed with good plant cover is like a sponge, it absorbs more water, allowing it not just to run but to slowly filter and clean the aquifers. The government of Cochabamba is currently working on a technical and social analysis of the situation to determine the best way to address the issue. (Eju! 7/17/2016)

Commercial agriculture was responsible for 70 percent of deforestation in Latin America between 2000 and 2010, according to Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). The expansion of pastures for cattle production was responsible for one-third of deforestation in six of the seven countries analyzed—in Argentina and Brazil this rate grows to 45 percent and 80 percent respectively. In Peru, small-scale agriculture accounted for 41 percent of deforestation. On the other hand, in Chile, since 1990 over two million acres of trees have been planted to prevent the deforestation of native trees. By 2025 these newly forested areas will be used for the sustainable production of 50 million cubic meters of wood annually. (Terra 7/18/2016) 

The cattle industry is driving the creation of new deforestation hot spots in the Peruvian Amazon. As the demand for meat grows, ranchers who “see protected areas as an opportunity, not realizing they are harming nature” are beginning to expand into the Huanuco region, which now leads the nation with the highest rates of deforestation. In the last years Peru has expanded its highway system into the jungles, making it easier for the country’s growing extractive economy, such as the cattle industry, to expand into more secluded parts of the rainforest. Organizations like the Institute of Development and the Environment (IDMA) are trying to educate the youth in Huanuco about the harmful effects of deforestation in the hopes of preventing future degradation. The Amazon covers 40 percent of South America and is critical in capturing carbon. Peru has the second largest stretch of the Amazon, after Brazil. (ThinkProgress 7/19/2016)


The energy company Acciona has signed its first contract to build a renewable energy facility in Mexico. Acciona plans to build a 168 MW wind farm, producing energy equivalent to the consumption of 350,000 homes in Mexico and preventing an annual emission of 563,000 tons of CO2. The contract with Acciona and the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) was made possible by an auction organized in March by the National Center for Energy Control (CENACE). Operations of the wind farm are set to begin in 2018. (EFE Empresa 7/13/2016)

Nestle’s operation in Mexico has saved 37 percent of its energy with the combined use of wind, solar and biomass. Starting next August, the company will stop throwing their waste in landfills and instead plans to reduce, reuse and recycle the material used in 14 of its factories. The waste will be used to produce clean energy or to make PET bags, a safe and recyclable plastic bag. In the past 10 years Nestle has invested over US$ 53 million in environmental initiatives and has managed to reduce its waste by 60,000 tons. (Alto Nivel 7/18/2016)


This week's blog was completed with the help of contributions from Andrea Becerra.


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