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Completed in the spring of 2012, the BC Agriculture Climate Change Adaptation Risk & Opportunity Assessment evaluates how changes to the climate may impact agricultural production for key commodities in various regions of BC.

The assessment generated five regional and commodity specific reports including a “Snapshot Report” for livestock and horticulture crops on Vancouver Island.

Building on the findings of the assessment, the Cowichan Region Adaptation Strategies plan was completed in the spring of 2013.  A summary of the plan is also available.  The plan identifies regionally specific collaborative strategies and actions that will enhance agriculture’s ability to adapt to projected changes.

$300,000 in Growing Forward funding is available for eligible collaborative projects identified in the plan. The Cowichan Adaptation Strategies plan is currently being implemented in partnership with a number of funders and local organizations. Implementation is being overseen by a local working group including:

Projects completed or underway are described in more detail below.


Regional Projects

Cowichan – Business Case for Regional Agriculture Extension Services

With the increasing weather variability and extremes associated with climate change, the complexity in farm management and decision-making will also grow.  With the challenges associated with climate change, the lack of available agricultural extension services was identified as a significant gap in adaptive capacity in the Cowichan region (particularly for new producers and those transitioning their business or production models).

In order to address this gap, this study will develop a business case and local agricultural extension models that have the potential to be sustainable (particularly with respect to financial resourcing).  The study will also provide a scan of agricultural extension models used around the world and identify some innovative options for funding and supporting extension services.

Related Documents

Cowichan – Extreme Weather Events Preparedness and Mitigation Pilot Project

In addition to shifts in temperature and precipitation, climate change projections include   increasing magnitude, frequency and intensity of extreme weather events.  Agricultural operations in the Cowichan region face greater risks associated with periods of extreme heat, extended dry periods, wildfires and extreme precipitation events.

This project included the piloting of extreme event preparedness and mitigation planning with farms located in proximity to one another.  Planning was focused on identifying risks and actions that could reduce (mitigate) the potential damages associated with extreme events.  This included individual producer actions, along with collaborative approaches. Agriculture-specific informational materials were developed to support the pilot planning process, undertaken through 2 workshops held in South Cowichan, drawing producers from various parts of the Cowichan region.  The project was undertaken in partnership with the Cowichan Valley Regional District (CVRD) Public Safety Division.

Related Documents

Cowichan – Options to Enhance Local Agricultural Processing and Storage

Access to processing and storage of agricultural products helps to ensure that agricultural producers have flexibility with respect to when and how they bring their products to market.  This flexibility is particularly important in a changing climate as the timing of production and the quality of products will become more unpredictable and variable.  Local food processing and storage infrastructure increases the capacity for agriculture to manage through variability while retaining profitability.

Incorporating climate change considerations, this study provides an inventory of existing food processing and storage infrastructure and assets in the Cowichan region, as well as identifying needs, gaps and areas with potential for future growth.  The most promising options have been further evaluated and developed to provide strategic direction to enhance agricultural processing and storage in the region.  This study also fulfills gaps identified in the Cowichan Region Area Agricultural Plan and was conducted in partnership with Economic Development Cowichan, with funding support from the Islands Coastal Economic Trust.

Related Documents

Cowichan – Integrated Farm Water Planning Pilot

Climate change will affect all aspects of water management for agricultural operations.  An integrated and comprehensive approach to water management (from supply, to irrigation, to drainage) at the farm level is a positive step in supporting producers to manage the associated challenges.

Through this project, a holistic farm water planning process will be developed and tested.  During Phase 1 (completed April 2014) a farm water planning toolkit was developed.  In Phase 2 (starting autumn of 2014) the toolkit was piloted with 8-10 agricultural operations across the Cowichan region.

A range of farm types and locations were selected so that the pilot incorporated a cross-section of water sources and management issues.  The pilot helped to refine and evaluate the planning approach and to identify common challenges or issues of exceptional concern.  By identifying more complex water issues and opportunities (that require cooperation between multiple partners) the pilot project was also intended to form the foundation for future collaborative water pilot projects in the Cowichan Valley.  If the planning toolkit and process prove valuable for participants, options for broadening its use will be explored.

Related Documents

Cowichan – Drought Alert System Pilot Project

Download and read the project summary as a PDF: Drought Alert Project Keeps Producers 'In the Know'.

The recently completed Extreme Weather Events Preparedness and Mitigation Pilot Project brought Cowichan producers together to discuss preparedness for extreme events. Through this dialogue, it became clear that there was a gap between producers’ awareness of water issues on their farm, and their level of awareness about the status of water at the regional level. Although the provincial government issues drought alerts and updates, this information is not reaching all producers through existing communication mechanisms.

The Cowichan Drought Alert System pilot project will implement a series of low cost mechanisms for communicating drought status to producers and evaluate which approaches are most effective. During the production season of 2015-2016, this project will pilot 4-5 different communication mechanisms including: text and phone alerts, signage, a postcard mail out, an electronic newsletter, and website updates. The most effective options will be integrated into the on-going activities of the CVRD Public Safety Division and shared with other interested communities.

Related Documents

Cowichan – Water Storage and Management Knowledge Transfer

During the Cowichan Extreme Events and Preparedness project, Cowichan producers identified effective drainage systems and on-farm water storage as important elements of adaptation – in some cases essential for mitigating the impacts of extreme events (i.e. flooding and extended dry periods). Since installation of appropriate water infrastructure can be a challenge for individual producers, knowledge transfer – including demonstration and improving available informational resources – was seen as a necessary support.

To begin to address this knowledge gap, the Agricultural Water Storage and Management Knowledge Transfer project shared information with producers in the Cowichan Valley and surrounding areas related to water storage development (and the associated requirements and regulations), as well as broader water management techniques, through a farm tour and 2 panel sessions at the Islands Agriculture Show in 2016.  The first tour/panel was focused on “Developing Water Storage on Your Farm” and featured visits to 4 local farms that featured different types of production systems utilizing differing water sources, water storage and water delivery systems.  The second panel was focused on “Drought and Water Supply: Water Management on Your Farm”. The panels included subject matter experts from the BC Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, agricultural producers and speakers from other organizations. The project also developed a video on water storage and management derived in part from the tour and panel sessions.  Please see the video, access the presentations delivered at the workshop, and read the project summary below.

Related Documents

Cowichan – Livestock Relocation and Management Plan

The Cowichan Extreme Events Preparedness and Mitigation pilot project brought Cowichan producers together to discuss preparedness for extreme events. An issue that was of particular interest to many producers in attendance was how to manage livestock in the case of an extreme event, such as a wildfire.

The Cowichan has several types of livestock operations including dairy and mixed livestock. With the diversity of livestock operations in the region, no single approach to extreme events will be suitable. Dairy animals can’t be relocated to a central location as they require on-going milking. Other types of livestock may benefit from regionally designated sites for relocation and still others may require plans for how to manage animals on-site.

This project will develop relocation/management plans (including separate considerations for dairy operations) at the regional scale and will also develop and test a template for livestock relocation and management planning at the farm scale, for use where a site-level approach is more suitable. Relocation plans will consider coordination of transportation and feed requirements. Existing provincial level initiatives will be integrated into planning tools where possible, or feedback will be generated through this project to support and inform Provincial level tools/processes. Finally, a summary version of the relocation plans and the transferable planning template will be disseminated via agriculture sector organizations, and a workshop will be coordinated to share templates developed and to raise awareness of regional relocation plans/initiatives.


Related Farm Innovator Projects (learn more)

Keyline Water Management: Field Research & Education in the Capital Region

Download and read the project summary as a PDF: Australian Technique Offers Novel Approach to Water Management.

Climate change projections for Southern Vancouver Island include an overall increase in average annual rainfall but with much of this falling in winter, spring and fall (and through extreme rainfall events). Summers are anticipated to become drier with an increase in extremely hot days. These changes will require producers to increase the resilience of their operations for both drought and flood conditions.

Keyline Design takes a holistic approach to farm water management and uses natural landscape contours and cultivation techniques to slow, sink and spread rainwater more evenly across the landscape. Keyline design has been successfully applied in similar winter-rain climates in Australia, and this project will introduce and test this approach within an agricultural context in BC.

The project will implement and monitor two ‘Keyline Water Management’ techniques -‘Keyline pattern subsoil ripping’ and ‘Keyline mound formation’- on three farms within the Capital Region with three different production models (pastured livestock, tree and herb crops, and annual vegetables). Three open-access farm plans that promote integrated, mixed farming systems that follow Keyline geometry will be created. In addition to the pilot projects at three farms, the project includes ‘Keyline Design’ seminars and public field days. Farmers will be empowered to use open access GIS imaging technology to better understand their watersheds and help them use Keyline Design patterning.