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INSAM homepage until September 2007

Last modified September 09, 2007 12:42

INSAM homepage until September 2007

To not forget the plight of poor people, particularly of poor farmers, we live several months of each year in a small township in rural East Java, Indonesia. There I do the writing of my papers and books and from there I also work and travel with my roving seminars on agrometeorological services in China, India and other places in Asia, sometimes even in Africa and Latin America, if I am not in the Netherlands when invited. I do still learn a lot from and about the people around us in East Java. I for example recall in this context a recent paper with H.P. Das and Nguyen Van Viet on the need for crop diversification by Indonesian farmers (see under “Needs for agrometeorological solutions to farming problems”), also published in another version in the Jakarta Post of 22 January 2007.

This way I visited at the end of February 2007 organizers, trainers and farmers involved in the unique “Climate Field Schools” (CFSs) in Indramayu, Indonesia, 250 km east of Jakarta. Farmer groups took already twice part in such field schools, which are based on the experiences obtained with “Farmer Field Schools” developed in Integrated Pest Management (IPM) extension. The latter gave Indonesia some international fame over the last decade. Application of such schools in coping with climate disasters appears a very good idea.

The CFSs were formulated by BMG (Agency for Meteorology and Geophysics, the Indonesian National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHS)), IPB (University of Agriculture, Bogor), the Directorate General of Food Crops (Jakarta) and the Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC, Bangkok). The main general aim of such CFSs is to increase farmers’ knowledge on the application of climate information in their decision making. The organizers in Indonesia, the Directorate of Crop Protection within the Directorate General of Food Crops in the Ministry of Agriculture, just finished the most recent training of trainers in the CFSs in the week of 12 – 19 April 2007.

The most important climate information input is for the time being a forecasting of the start of the rainy season, as made by the BMG. The basic extension aim of the present CFSs is to get the farmers familiar with a better determination of appropriate rice planting times under conditions of a changing climate. The local farmers told me that given the changing variabilities, this was for them an absolute priority. The following phases of the crop do not pose them comparable problems unless there is flooding or drought.

The experiments in 2005 and 2006 have given rise to larger scale applications that will this year be carried out with more than 200 CFSs in 19 provinces. These earlier trials also convinced farmers that this approach was better than what they traditionally applied prior to 2005.

The role of the CFSs is that of the trainers involved being one class of intermediaries, between the forecasting products of BMG and the farmers, in an agrometeorological service act of joint determination of planting time. Farmers come with their own visual observations and next to BMG’s inputs there are those from one Automatic Weather Station (AWS) in Indramayu. The farmers act as field screeners.

Farmers being generally satisfied with the CFSs, the organizers and trainers see enough problems that have to be solved for improving the products at each level, that of BMG, that of training the trainers and that of advising the farmers. Firstly the BMG input information is general climate forecast information, not a product for the area or for farmers. Secondly, also planting time within the province is location specific and one AWS is insufficient. More ground truth, remote sensing and GIS applications could assist. Moreover, problems with the AWS and auxiliary equipment are rampant. Another type of intermediaries in the service of BMG should be able to look after such problems.

At the level of the trainers, the worries are mainly on sustainability of the present approach in the upscaling of CFSs and on reaching larger numbers of farmers that do not yet participate, without losing quality of information and feedback. New means of communication should be tried out, but cell phones are not yet suitable for a great majority of farmers. Rural radio would be a very fine medium but was not yet tried out.

At the level of the farmers, organized communications between intermediaries and trainees and among farmers after the CFSs must also be tackled in the future. Personal communications are at present the main form of contact between famers, comparable to what earlier Chinese research in poorer areas showed.

The next issue would then be what other problems with agrometeorological components could in the course of time get attention in the view of these rice farmers. My conversations showed that these have to be found in the direction of water management in floods and droughts, water use efficiency and crop diversifications, also using AWS and other data more effectively.

I believe that also the above is an example of work in the undercurrent of agrometeorology as I described it in my former homepage. Feedback to and from mainstream agrometeorology will be a necessity in the training and extension involved. This is where INSAM stands for; this is where INSAM needs your support in ordinary (free of charge), founding and corporate founding memberships.

If you know about comparable needs or attempts as described above, let us know. We can’t have the INSAM website without you and your information exchange!

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