Innovative climate services ‘aid farmers’ adaptation’

A farmer and a researcher
Copyright: Flickr/ J. Recha, CCAFS

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  • The report discusses 18 case studies involving nations in Africa and South Asia
  • It shows how climate change information services are aiding farmers’ adaptation
  • An expert says African governments must continue to invest in these services

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[NAIROBI] Countries in Africa and South Asia are now providing farmers with innovative climate information services that enable them predict and adapt to fast changing climatic conditions, a study says.
The study by the CGIAR’s research program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) states that countries are developing strategies that work against negative climate change impacts on food production by mobilising government meteorological services, agricultural extension agents, community radio stations, religious groups, schools and farmers.   
These countries, the report states, are adopting climate services that involve “developing high-quality, location-specific data on temperature, rainfall, wind, soil moisture and ocean conditions, among other things, that help farmers decide the best crop variety to cultivate and when to plant and apply fertiliser”.
The report released at the Managing Agricultural Risks in a Changing Climate in Sub-Saharan Africa annual conference in Johannesburg, South Africa, this week (4-5 November) features 18 case studies from countries in Africa and South Asia, including Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

“Providing farmers with advance forecasts with actionable advisories [help them] to deal with increased climate variability they have started to face on their farms and production systems.”

Arame Tall, CGIAR’s research programme on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Securitys

According to Arame Tall, CCAFS’ climate services scientist and the report’s lead author, climate information services offer farmers concrete ways for addressing changing climate impacts on agriculture.
“Providing farmers with advance forecasts with actionable advisories [help them] to deal with increased climate variability they have started to face on their farms and production systems,” he says. “We synthesised, for the first time, good practices evidence from the field in delivering relevant climate information for the most vulnerable end user group of farmers and agro-pastoralists.”
The result, he explains, spans India where over three million farmers are reached on their cell phones with weather forecasts and advisories on when to plant, apply fertiliser and pesticide, and harvest to the Grameen Foundation project in Uganda providing information to farmers on topics such as climate, pests and market prices through tailored tablet-based platforms.
According to Tall, the report gives additional insights into the conditions under which outcomes co-produced, co-designed and co-evaluated with farmers meet specific needs and decision requirements.
“The road to getting there requires collaboration of multiple national departments and centres of expertise functioning under a coherent national chain or framework for climate services,” he tells SciDev.Net.
James Hansen, the report’s co-author who also leads the CCAFS climate risk management research team, says effective, well-designed climate information and advisory services offer considerable potential to help vulnerable smallholder farming communities adapt to a variable and changing climate. 
“Climate services are part of an enabling environment for climate-smart agriculture.  While efforts to bring weather and seasonal climate information to farmers in the developing world have been around for decades, opportunities to invest in climate services for agriculture are expanding greatly due to growing interest on the part of major development organisations and funders,” he says.
Willis Oluoch-Kosura, a professor of agricultural economics at Kenya’s University of Nairobi, says the report is very comprehensive on adaptation to climate change issues with regards to the local farmer and local settings.
Forming synergies between experts and farmers, he explains, is appropriate for farmers and acceptable to the experts. “It enables these stakeholders to brainstorm on potential adaptive strategies that are applicable to the farmers’ and finally tailor them in a way that they are easily understood and implemented by the farmer,” Oluoch-Kosura tells SciDev.Net.
Oluoch-Kosura adds: “Governments should continue to invest in such kind of integrated services because the ones that are already in place have exhibited undisputed success in terms of achievement”.  
Link to the report
This article has been produced by SciDev.Net's Sub-Saharan Africa desk.