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In Colombia, “climate-friendly” villages present what the way forward for agriculture may appear like

A land of living beauty, Colombia is home to large swaths of fertile land that produces everything from coffee and sugar cane to bananas, cocoa and rice.

Efforts are being made in Cauca, a division in the southwest of the country, to develop agricultural practices that are hoped to be both sustainable and resilient to future challenges.

Ana María Loboguerrero is Head of Global Policy Research at the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security. One of the projects she is involved in is the Cauca Climate-Smart Village project.

According to CGIAR – a "global agricultural innovation network" funded by organizations such as the European Commission, the African Development Bank and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation – farmers in the area covered by the initiative face a number of problems, including "the Effects "of climate variability and climate change. "This, in turn, can affect crop productivity, cause soil degradation and hinder access to water.

Speaking to CNBC's Sustainable Energy, Loboguerrero said the project, together with farmers, has generated evidence of the practices and technologies that can help us increase productivity and food security, and improve adaptation to climate change and variability, and that can help us to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. "

Loboguerrero stated that temperature and rainfall information was collected while also using an inexpensive network of weather stations.

"And then we use that information from what we call 'agro-climate projections' which tell us what will happen in the next three months in terms of precipitation, temperature and humidity," she added.

"And with that information, farmers make better decisions about when to plant, which varieties to use, and how to apply fertilizers. They can work with the climate."

Lilian Torres Erazo is one of the farmers involved in the project who helped her to become self-employed by growing coriander, onions, peppers and lettuce. "It's a big change," she said. "We consume the food we grow," she added.

"We used to buy our groceries in the supermarket or at the fruit and vegetable stand. Now we go to the fruit and vegetable stand to sell and what we cannot sell we bring home for our own consumption."

The project also has a social aspect. "Men understand that women can do really good things to generate more income," Loboguerrero said. "They get more empowered in terms of the household, they have more freedom, and they feel like they are doing really good things for the community."

Creating more opportunities for young people is another feature of programs like the one in Cauca.

Andrew Jarvis, director of decision-making and policy analysis research at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture, told CNBC that 30 "low-carbon villages" have been introduced in 19 countries around the world.

Jarvis added that the team is looking at ways to revitalize rural areas to make them attractive, "so farmers want their children to keep farming".

Loboguerrero focused on Colombia and the project in Cauca and noticed that the children there did not want to learn anything about vegetables at first. Instead, they dreamed of going to the nearest town, Popayan, to work in roles like that of a taxi driver.

"We don't have to force young people to stay here, but we have to seize the opportunities, we have to speak a language they understand and it's technology, it's digital agriculture, it's big data," she added.

"So we bring that with us and it's amazing how the dynamic has changed: They want to study careers related to agronomy and environmental technology so they don't have to run away from their country."

The work of Loboguerrero, her colleagues and the farmers in Cauca shows how projects that proactively involve the local population can have an impact on many facets of society.

Thousands of kilometers away in Brittany, France, Yann Laurans, Program Director for Biodiversity and Ecosystems at the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations, was asked if small initiatives should be encouraged to change people's attitudes.

"Absolutely," he replied. "Working on nature-based solutions means working with people, which means that you have to ask them what they think: how they can produce, how they can manage space, what takes time," he added. "And that's why small projects, small projects, are always better."

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