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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

$1.5 million grant awarded for collaborative climate change study in PR, USVI

By The Star Staff

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Caribbean Climate Hub, in collaboration with the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) and the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI), has been awarded a $1.5 million grant to address climate change in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The project, Climate-Smart Caribbean, is one of six projects selected by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Agriculture and Food Research Initiative’s new program area aimed at funding climate-focused collaborations between the USDA Climate Hubs and cooperative extension programs.

The purpose of the project is to increase climate literacy and awareness of adaptation solutions in the U.S. Caribbean by developing education and cooperative extension programs aimed at several sectors, including dairy and livestock farmers, forest managers, USDA and cooperative extension staff, kids, and the general public. The project is a three-year collaboration with Cooperative Extension Service at the UPR and the UVI, UVI Caribbean Green Technology Center and the non-profit organizations Winrock International and Climate Science Alliance.

The project grew from a shared view among the project team that Caribbean farmers, forest managers, rural communities, and agricultural and forestry advisers can benefit from a foundation of climate literacy and actionable information to effectively adapt to the effects of climate change and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. The project aims to provide practical information relevant to climate adaptation and resilience in the Caribbean region — resources that many advisers indicate are lacking. While adopting climate adaptation and mitigation practices can potentially provide benefits and enhance productivity and profitability in agriculture and forestry, the project team recognizes that implementing these actions can present significant challenges in the Caribbean due to a lack of practical, regionally relevant information.

William Gould, director of the USDA Caribbean Climate Hub and leader of the newly funded project at the USDA Forest Service International Institute of Tropical Forestry in Puerto Rico, noted that “we see the effects of a warming climate and the science is clear that these effects will increase.”

“We hope to help people understand how changing climate will affect their own farming and forest management objectives, and what practices and programs can help them be sustainable and productive as conditions change,” he said.

The project is meant to demonstrate how increasing climate literacy and sharing sector-specific adaptation and mitigation practices will facilitate climate-informed decision making, and ultimately improve the sustainability, resilience, productivity, and economic and ecological benefits in the sectors addressed in the project. The project stands to benefit multiple groups, including farmers, foresters, K-12 teachers and children, rural communities, and tree nursery and greenhouse owners, as well as employees of USDA, the Cooperative Extension System, and the Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands local governments.

The two principal objectives of increasing climate literacy and the application of sector-specific adaptation and mitigation practices will be carried out through eight components that focus on specific topics, including climate science, climate adaptation and preparedness, dairy and livestock, and reforestation. The new collaboration among the USDA Caribbean Climate Hub, UVI Cooperative Extension Service and UPR Agricultural Extension Service, Winrock International, and Climate Science Alliance brings together experts from a variety of fields with different approaches for interactive climate-related learning, such as educational modules, in-person workshops, role-playing games and online webinars.

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