Puerto Rico’s agro-ecology brigades are a model of resiliency in a changing climate

After losing 80 percent of its crop value to Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico’s farmer brigades are not only helping their neighbors rebuild, but steering the island toward agro-ecology as a sustainable way to farm in the face of a changing climate, reports Audrea Lim in FERN’s latest piece, published with The Nation.

It is the first in a new series called “Taking Heat,” in which Lim delivers stories from the front lines of the climate-justice movement. She will explore the ways the communities that stand to lose the most as a result of climate change are also becoming leaders in the climate resistance —from the farms of Puerto Rico and the tar sands of Canada to the streets of Los Angeles and Kentucky coal country.

In the absence of robust government aid after Maria, these farmer brigades have helped repair and restore countless farms. “Some are affiliated with the Organización Boricuá de Agricultura Ecológica de Puerto Rico,” Lim writes, “a network of small-scale farmers that counts Garcia as a member, and that has been promoting the practice of agro-ecology on the island since 1989.

“Agro-ecology is an approach to farming that promotes diversity (through crop rotation, polycultures, or livestock integration), uses natural systems (like planting flowers to attract insects that will manage pests), and relies on farmers’ knowledge of local conditions. The result can be higher yields at lower cost, along with more efficient use of resources and space, self-regulating agricultural environments, and self-sufficiency for farmers.”

As climate change reshapes our agricultural and ecological systems,  and ecological systems are transformed, the communal approach and knowledge-sharing that is at the heart of Puerto Rico’s brigades will be indispensable, Lim notes. “What crops are most resilient? What methods work? Similar interactions between farmers and the people they feed are part of the ecosystem, too.”