INSAM homepage until December 2006
INSAM homepage until December 2006
On the former home page I ended the main text with good but relatively rare examples of public agrometeorological services in developing countries, from Cuba, India, Mali, China (where I was involved myself) and Ethiopia. I promised to come back to the issues of differentiation and upscaling.
I was myself also involved for many years in assisting, through a University collaboration project, local colleagues in reducing the negative influence of climate on sorghum grain traditionally stored in underground pits in Sennar Province, Central Sudan. Largely based on locally suggested famers'innovations, here we improved as an agrometeorological service the designs of such pits, to make them suitable for longer periods of storage. However, extension services were not available to disseminate these findings beyond the target groups involved in the project.
Last year I was shown another example based on farmer innovations. In Ningxia Autonomous Region, western China, two hundred kilometres south of the capital Yinchuan, over large surfaces in very low rainfall areas, a layer of about 10 cm of pebbles is laid out. They are collected with trucks from dry river beds and are used to prevent serious wind erosion and blowing away of artificial fertilizers broadcasted over the soil. The pebbles also warm the soil and prevent evaporation of the only 100 to 200 mm of rainfall from the soil surface below the pebbles. This way they create an ideal seedbed for water melons that, I was told, are sold in many capitals all over China. In very low rainfall seasons simple irrigation is provided.
From these relatively scarce examples listed last time and above, as well as from other more negative experience collected in many countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America, we can derive the following lessons:
- in most developing countries there does not exist a systematic review of farmers' needs for weather services and related information, region by region and farming system by farming system, including livestock, forestry and fisheries;
- this applies to a minority of richer producers that could be assisted by private sector initiatives and to the majority of poorer farmers etc. that would need public sector assistance, differentiated after their farming systems, levels of education and income;
- dialogues with farmers, pastoralists, forest dwellers and fishermen and their communities are the very beginning to get them interested in services regarding their preparedness for extreme climatic events and for making use of the benefits climate may offer;
- 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;
- provincial or sub-regional agrometeorologists are an important asset but only when they get the means and backing to actually make a difference in the livelihood of farmers etc. and assist them to respond to variable weather and changing climate;
- last but not least, if we succeed in creating such weather services, consequences of climate change can be faced with much more confidence than presently is the case.
Even when occasional farmer innovations as illustrated above do exist to build on, there are at present insufficient infrastructure, education, investment, self-administration and other general public and private services in the rural areas, as a socio-economic environment suitable to quickly improve absorption of more and better weather services.
Poverty can therefore only slowly be reduced. However, recently governments in China, India and several Latin American countries as well as international donors regarding Africa have independently promised that the general services climates will indeed be tackled. As part of such overall changes, more and better, well introduced and guided, agrometeorological services along the above discussed lines can actually play a very important role in poverty alleviation.
This is therefore the place and time to remind you on the annual INSAM contest on best examples of agrometeorological services. Last year we had two submissions and for this year that number has so far already doubled. We want to encourage you to participate by sending us a required protocol form on your best examples. The information on the contest is under the Agromet Market Place of earlier this year and last year. You may also contact your INSAM president about it. We have now pilot projects on such services in the making in China and India and planned in Brazil, Vietnam, India and Cambodia. We can inform you on these matters on request.
Finally I repeat my requests of last time. Registration for becoming an ordinary member of INSAM free of charge is easy, but we could still use some founding members as well as some (founding) corporate members.
Also we are still begging you to contribute to the contents of this website because we feel that agrometeorology is very much served with such larger participation.