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Reaching farmers in a changing climate

Last modified January 11, 2012 15:46

Reaching farmers in a changing climate. By Kees Stigter. As the third and last Roving Seminar in Iran within five weeks, Kees Stigter gave his Seminar Nr. 3: “Reaching farmers in a changing climate” at the Agricultural and Natural Resources Research Center (ANRC) of Golestan Province, Agricultural Extension & Education and Research Organization (Ministry of Jihad of Agriculture) in Gorgan, in the North East of Iran at the Caspian Sea, from 12 to 15 December 2011.

As the third and last Roving Seminar in Iran within five weeks, Kees Stigter gave his Seminar Nr. 3: “Reaching farmers in a changing climate” at the Agricultural and Natural Resources Research Center (ANRC) of Golestan Province, Agricultural Extension & Education and Research Organization (Ministry of Jihad of Agriculture) in Gorgan, in the North East of Iran at the Caspian Sea, from 12 to 15 December 2011. The organizer and host of that Seminar was Dr. Mohammad E. Asadi, Water and Irrigation Scientist of the Crop, Soil, and Water Sciences Department of ANRC.


Because we used here the system of alternate translations, by several interpreters, we had no discussion groups sessions but we had long question and answer sessions after each of the 10 lectures. In the morning of 15 December Kees Stigter also gave a public lecture in a large auditorium for 350 people on “Coping with disasters and agrometeorology. Some thoughts of what we can do”. Below are the Conclusions and Recommendations of the Roving Seminar.


THIRD ROVING SEMINAR Kees Stigter (Gorgan, Iran, 12 to 15 Dec. 2011): CONCLUSIONS

- Applied agrometeorology is basically about problem solving with agrometeorological components in agricultural production;

- Case studies on famers’ applications of agrometeorological services and information have to be collected locally by Universities, Research Institutes and National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) [and eventually other Environmental Services in agriculture];

- Science, and not only climate change science, has a role to play. But only when acknowledging the present livelihood crises of the poor and giving priority to policy preparations and policy mandate matters related to those crises; and to science only in that context;

- What the mainstream misses is in the undercurrent of applied agrometeorology: data, research, education/training/extension and policies, used/carried out in action as priorities in the undercurrent of applied agricultural meteorology;

- The developments in Low External Input Sustainable Agriculture (LEISA) research of the last twenty years show what is possible if norms and values in science show a paradigm shift. A shift towards valuing the basic issues in the undercurrent: realistic assessments of the environment and considerations of the plights of poor people;

- Services based on products generated by operational support systems in which understanding of farmer livelihood conditions and farmer innovations have been used. What we need is institutionalization of science supported establishment and validation of such services;

THIRD ROVING SEMINAR- Of the examples originally collected in the INSAM contest for the best examples of such services, some have been institutionalized and some were developed with and for specific target groups of farmers but were not institutionalized. These examples show the missing links with the livelihood of larger groups of farmers;

- The consequences of poverty and vulnerability are not clearly understood nor are the possibilities within farmers’ existence. Subsequently we argue that in new educational commitments, when well institutionalized, the understanding of farmers’ needs can be extended, and handled to redress the situation, using agrometeorological services;

- A massive investment in agriculture is indeed required. This should be primarily focused on the creation of knowledge that does justice to the local variation in water and nutrient availability. It should aim to empower farmers to experiment and be innovative, and remake agricultural extension and agricultural engineering;

- Organic agriculture, as a systemic development package, fits into the approach of ‘new growth economics’. The latter stresses knowledge and innovation as factors in production combined with new institutional models. Organic farming systems embody many elements of sustainability that make them suitable tools to reduce poverty;

- Agroforestry (and other multi-functional agriculture) connects water and fertility issues (in monocropping and multiple cropping without trees); it does so by restoring
(i) biological resources and natural capital (soil fertility, water, forests, etc); (ii) livelihoods (nutrition, health, culture, equity, income); and (iii) agroecological processes (nutrient and water cycles, pest and disease control, etc.);

- The real problems cocoa producers face in Indonesia at this moment is the price. In April 2010, the trade ministry imposed a 10% tax on the export of cocoa beans in an attempt to encourage the development of the local cocoa-grinding industry. In reality the farmers pay the price. Officials have also long been criticized for their not tackling diseases that have ravaged the nation’s cocoa crop. Governments often ruin the lives of farmers;

- The effectiveness of meteorological communication is determined, amongst other things, by the extent to which all persons involved in the communication transaction are competent in communicating and interpreting meteorological messages;

- Much of the research and development needed for less-favoured lands does not involve high science. But rather the spread and adaptation of indigenous knowledge and practical innovations. NGOs have been very successful in pursuing this agenda. They work with local communities to overcome social and institutional constraints;

- There is a need for more participatory ways of innovative communication to test new technologies which shall be adopted by the small farmers. Agrometeorological services!

- The Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Farmer Field School (FFS) approach, that was first tried in Indonesia and the Philippines just more than 20 years ago, is generally considered a success story;

- There are a number of important social outcomes from such trainings. Farmers gain self-confidence, they start to work together to solve community problems, and they develop a different relationship with local government;

 - A consequence for post-graduate and other curricula is: attention for what extension intermediaries should be taught to train farmers with agrometeorological services. This way all students get a feel for practicing agrometeorology fully in its ultimate applications, including social components.

THIRD ROVING SEMINAR Kees Stigter (Gorgan, Iran, 12 to 15 Dec. 2011): RECOMMENDATIONS

- Good PhD-, MSc- and BSc-thesis research subjects can be designed for increasing the numbers and improving the contents of these case studies, because often the available information will need expansion, extension, adaptation and updating;

- Specially in-service trained extension intermediaries are needed between the weather products (maps, forecasts, warnings, response proposals) as well as design rules
(advisories on mitigation of weather and climate impacts)
and their rural potential clients, that are vulnerable and mostly have relatively low formal education;

- We should bring response farming from undercurrent to mainstream;

- Even granting that agroforestry is an ancient art, there is a newly enhanced awareness of the importance of trees outside forests in climate and food production and this should be encouraged in Iran;

- FAO lists agroforestry as an agricultural measure in its role in Disaster Risk Reduction and this should be followed up in Iran;

- We want to get into a situation in which, in a “farmer first paradigm”, livelihood problems and farmer decision-making needs do actually guide the bottom-up design of actual services;

- These operational services are the best illustrations of what has been institutionalized in some countries and of what is needed to validate those examples and learn from them;

- There are a range of opportunities and potential solutions to address food & livelihoods crises. They must be divided according to various agro-ecological zones to address the specific climatic and ecosystem aspects and then into several main categories in necessary differentiations;

- These adaptation solutions must be distinguished for the following main categories: type of farmer (farming system); natural resource management; markets and opportunities of economic activities; institutional opportunities; additional aspects;

- The industrial farming is primarily responsible for local change in India. We will do well to develop water yielding farm systems with many trees in the place of the present water killing farm systems. The need of the hour is not adaptation (to climate change) but rolling back of the disastrous local climate change;

- Healthy developments in cocoa production systems together with carbon sequestration, must go hand in hand with appropriate initial and boundary conditions promoting factors determining long term yields. They are the selectively chosen use of fertilizers, pesticides and fungicides, good use of other management factors such as in pruning and shading and extension work on all these factors for and by farmers;

- Radio ensures greater “visibility” of the agromet information, but how do farmers absorb this information? Do they know how to interpret it? Does it meet their needs? To answer these questions requires evaluation of receipt and use of these services, increasingly focused on the local farmers; [This was a conclusion from Cuba.]

- Researchers develop and provide updated information used by intermediaries at national and regional level. But sometimes also directly to farmers, particularly within “Science Field Shops” for farmer networks, preceding Climate Field Schools;

- As scientists we are supposed to propose and prepare policies. So in agricultural and social sciences we should among others care for policies of managing the rural response to climate change and of institutionalization of that response;

- Just like FFSs, the CFSs should be active before and over extended growing seasons, which in many parts of the tropics would mean all year round. They would therefore become educational commitments in a better organized peasantry livelihood. Agrometeorological extension would be part of this;

- In the above we have focused on agricultural meteorology. But there are quite a number of other applied fields that should be taught in the same context. Agrohydrology, entomology, phytopathology, anthropology, agronomy, soil science, etc. etc.

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