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INSAM homepage until December 2011

Last modified December 23, 2011 09:47

INSAM homepage until December 2011.

As explained also in a column of last year, since late 2007 I am involved in field work in Indonesia that wants to contribute to generating and supporting what we have called “a rural response to climate change”. Indonesia is unique in that it experimented with Climate Field Schools (CFSs) as derived from the Farmer Field School extension approaches. We find the latter these days throughout the developing world in attempts to renew many kinds of extension services.

Unfortunately these experiments with CFSs have been set up temporarily and more with the intention to teach farmers top down about (changing) weather, climate and the atmosphere. Instead of only paying attention to their immediate livelihood crises and the climate related questions they have about what they experience in their production environment. So, how do we get CFSs to actually serve farmers permanently with expanding their understanding of what happens in their own fields and by increasing their resilience towards multiple vulnerabilities.

We have created a few small experimental projects (and so far failed in establishing some more of them) with an approach that starts with measuring rainfall on a daily basis by the farmers themselves in their own plots. The rain gauges are now locally produced. They also note down, in books that we provided, observations on the consequences of the rainfall patterns and other environmental conditions. This applies to soils, sowings, seedlings, crops, pests and diseases, water management with and without irrigation and/or drainage and any other operational factors (such as related to the use and application of fertilizers and spraying herbicides and pesticides) that are part of their coping strategies. The farmers in these projects come together once every ten days (decade) to compare their rainfall data and discuss observations on the consequences. They are assisted in the interpretations by some scientific staff and students from Indonesian Universities, including myself.

We had a first success in Wareng (Gunungkidul), Wonosari, Yogyakarta (see on LEISA Magazine 24 (4), pp. 16 -18 of December 2008). See also We had a second success with the spontaneous establishment of a “club of Indramayu rainfall observers” in this coastal region west of Jakarta (see on Farming Matters (new name of LEISA Magazine) 26 (4), pp. 12 - 15 of December 2010). See also

However, we also have to talk about why some groups of farmers that initially showed interest were after all mostly reluctant to start this work. Firstly, we are talking about generally poor farmers assisted by cash strapped Universities. Secondly, with some (groups of) farmers, it remains difficult to explain that we do not approach them with a project for our own use and benefit but that we have their wellbeing for now and in the future in mind. If we do not come with money to buy the rain gauges (what we actually do) or pay their costs of transport to the monthly meetings (what we actually also do but only temporarily), some believe that we are just wanting to use them to get the data. We have of course talked to them about the continuing climate change and its consequences. But some find it difficult to see enough resilience benefits from routinely measuring rainfall on a daily basis, at a fixed part of the day at the same place, while noting environmental issues and consequences (without receiving compensation as an issue for some).

As also explained in that earlier column of last year, in the two success cases mentioned above we have held multiple sessions between larger groups of these farmers and scientists and students, for answering of any questions that farmers have. We called these meetings Science Field Shops (SFSs). See also We now observe that a large majority of these questions can be answered from our experience or by using the internet, only a few demanding feedback from University research. We are convinced that this way we are also building a much better curriculum for CFSs, because we feel that CFSs should not start with a pre-fixed curriculum. They should be built up from what farmers have shown that their most serious vulnerabilities are and what their most serious questions are. The actual sense of simple probabilistic climate predictions should be determined here as well.

In a given growing season, a CFS will therefore have to pay most attention to floods and their consequences or to a sudden dry monsoon season with much rain (in Indonesia often caused by La Niña) and its consequences. These are for example serious brown plant hopper attacks in rice, like after May 2010 and throughout early 2011, in many parts of Indonesia. In another growing season, a CFS will have to pay most attention to drought and its consequences within a rainy season (often caused by El Niño), like in late 2009 and very early 2010 in most of Indonesia. It follows from this reasoning that CFSs should be much less complex but permanent and each farming system and/or region should have its own CFSs. In November, Prof. Yunita T. Winarto and myself, as Editors, will publish the book “Agrometeorological Learning: Coping Better with Climate Change” with LAP LAMBERT Academic Publishing GmbH & Co. KG, Saarbrucken, Germany, that have accepted our manuscript. This discusses the earlier experience of farmers with a CFS in Wareng and our own years of work with these same farmers since late 2007, after this CFS.

There are two main reasons why in Indonesia this will remain a matter of much time, experimenting and lobbying. One is money in this most corrupt country of Asia. The second is the virtual absence of a well trained extension service and new trainers of these extension officers. As a preliminary solution, training “farmer facilitators” as trainers, at SFSs or even at simpler “Climate Field Shops”, with only a few outsiders that can answer climate questions of farmers, is an approach we are planning to continue in Indonesia. Well trained extension services that can handle a climate change ravaged world with an actual “rural response to climate change” are still far away, but they should not leave our fields of vision.

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