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INSAM homepage until June 2008

Last modified June 21, 2008 14:34

INSAM homepage until June 2008

Applied science delivers quite some products (forecasts, advisories and other services) that are supposed to be of direct service to farming and other communities. What is the reality in agriculture?

Few products are ever operationally used and if so, only by richer commercial farmers or directly by government institutions, not by any other groups of farmers. Can we do something about this? Now that the world of disasters is actually changing everywhere! In under-industrialized countries, Governments, NGOs, Civil Society and various groups of left-out farmers become much more aware that the bridge has to be built in a strong and pragmatic way.

These were my opening statements at a recent faculty seminar at the University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa, where I am a visiting professor for several months. In this and several other recent seminars and lectures here, I have given examples of where this gap between scientific products from NMHSs, Agricultural Research Institutes and Universities on one side and farming on the other side was successfully bridged, why and how. I made use of the examples of our INSAM contest but below I am giving some that have not yet been submitted. It will also become clear what is behind the many failures.

On this website, under “Accounts of operational agrometeorology”, you will now find my translation of the conclusions of a recent summary report from the National Meteorological Services of Mali on the famous agrometeorological pilot projects in Mali, that I earlier mentioned in one of my homepage texts. It says that it follows from their experience that the Sahelian farmer can be technically assisted to reduce climate risk for his/her production. To this end, one has to provide him/her with timely and appropriate information to guide his/her activities. This has to be worked out by a team of specialists in meteorology, agronomy, communication and agricultural extension that integrate meteorological and climatological data in the technological package that agricultural research makes available to smallholders. This is a unique early example of an extremely successful agrometeorological service, from which we can learn very much in designing such services.

Also on this website, under “Needs for agrometeorological solutions to farming problems”, you can now read Dr. Murthy’s very interesting report on the first WMO/CAgM initiated roving seminars on weather, climate and farmers in India. I beg you to note the very basic issues that are dealt with in these seminars with respect to the use of newspapers, radio and, where possible, television, in getting weather forecasts applied where they are not. Also note a range of simple issues, different ones in each village, which farmers demand to pay attention to. Very often related to microclimate management.

This shows the actual needs of farmers and ways to try to assess them and reply to them. However, the needed scale of such useful exercises and the clearly necessary follow-up makes me almost desperate. Institutionalization of such seminars by local governments is essential. The reaching of mid-career (extension) officers that will have to bridge the gap, as we are aiming at in my roving seminars here in South Africa (and before in Iran, India and Brazil/Venezuela), is another must. We have only just started.

Again on this website, under the same heading as Dr. Murthy’s report, you find a recent presentation by me, with collaboration of Dr. Rathore (India). It holds suggestions on how to organize coping with crop disease risks of farmers in poor countries. We argue with Paulo Sentelhas and associates, from a review paper under review for Scientia Agricultura, Brazil, that logistical barriers to application of disease warnings have to come down. Once a disease forecast is available, these barriers are for example: inconvenience & complexity; added costs; added labour; difficulties to respond timely; unsuitable weather data; unsuitable weather forecasts; interpolation needs. To these barriers may be added for developing countries: non-existing or not yet most suitable communication channels. Sentelhas et al. show that it can be done, also non-commercially, but it all has to be differently organized, guided and conveyed in two way communication.

At the end of October last year, I gave in Beijing before the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences an invited policy paper, that will also appear this month in “Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment”. I argued that in Climate Field Schools (CFSs), intermediaries may make use of climate predictions and/or drought and flood forecasts and/or design rules of improved microclimates and/or weather warnings for pests/diseases etc. etc. The core issue, however, is the organization and follow up with groups of farmers of the use and validation of such information.

The agrometeorological education and in service training preparation of extension intermediaries is an essential part of this bridging of the gap between scientific products and farmer communities. The training of farmers as the end users of agrometeorological services can be performed by such community intermediaries in these new CFSs.

The present members of INSAM did a very good campaigning job with their colleagues, and we are only 23 members away from a membership of thousand. I propose another effort of that kind, in which we also do not forget to promote INSAM among our students.

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