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INSAM homepage until July 2012

Last modified October 01, 2012 09:31

INSAM homepage until July 2012.

We are so much in the habit of using certain terminology that we sometimes forget what we actually mean or should mean. I came across a simple example that I feel is important enough to share it with you. I had to assess the text of a questionnaire somewhere in Africa, that started with the title “Application of weather/climate for improved agricultural decision making ....”. I read this a few times and wondered whether we are indeed “applying weather and climate”. I don’t think so. I wanted to propose to change this in “Application of weather/climate information for improved agricultural decision making ...”. That sounded more logical, but then I wondered whether small farmers (and very likely any but the best educated farmers for that matter) would be happy with just information. I had the feeling that we could do better and would like to know about what would make the difference if we did better!

It may make sense to first make a few distinguishments between weather/ climate information, advisories and services. In my view, information in meteorology/climatology is passive in the sense that there is no indication coming with that information on how to use it. “Raw” weather forecasts and climate predictions are examples. Information with recommendations on how to use it, or information otherwise made more client friendly for solving specific problems, may be called advisories. But dialogues between senders and receivers are still not necessarily involved. In the USA, an advisory is only an official announcement or warning, while for example in India it is a recommendation, that is, however, not compulsory nor enforceable. Establishing such advisories with farmers in their fields should be called services. Then we have dialogues between farmers and extension. Then farmers are assisted to carry out the advisories (establish the services) in their fields, jointly with extension intermediaries and/or farmer facilitators, who were shown and trained how to do so.

Basically it are, in our fields of work with small scale and resource-poor farmers, agrometeorological and agroclimatological services that should be established in farmers’ fields, with well trained extension intermediaries and/or (with the upscaling to communities in mind) sufficiently knowledgeable farmer facilitators. These services are then agrometeorological advisories accepted in their most client friendly form by these farmers and molded by them into what could be actually applied in their fields. They will that way also be jointly validated by farmers and extension. The same applies to other fields of applied agricultural sciences.

The way in which we presently bring the NOAA three months “ensemble” climate prediction information each month to some groups of farmers in Indramayu, West Java, Indonesia, is such a more client friendly information that may be called an agrometeorological advisory. We try to approximately derive the likely start of the main rainy season and also indicate whether the dry season may be expected to be normal. However, our advisory remains a qualitative one, based on the raw climate prediction information that we received from NOAA. For example two recent advisories to our farmers (early January and early February 2012) read:

“For the next three months, a somewhat to fairly above normal rainfall may be expected for January and February. It is likely that this will reduce to only somewhat above normal rainfall in March. At this moment a normal dry season is expected later in the year”.


"The fairly above normal rainfall in the first two months of 2012 will reduce in March and April and become close to normal in May. The expectation for the dry season remains that it will be normal".

Of course these messages are translated in Bahasa Indonesia before they are sent via SMS to the farmers concerned. Now when do such advisories become a(n) (agro)climatological service? Every now and then we jointly visit these farmer groups and often some of their extension officers are present as well. My Indonesian anthropology counterpart, Prof. Yunita T. Winarto, and her students visit them every month. When I discuss such an advisory with these farmers, and they can ask me questions related to understanding of and acting upon these climate prediction advisories, or even when I do that through my counterpart while being in another continent, the agrometeorological advisory has got the form of an agrometeorological service.

Part II of my book “Applied Agrometeorology”, of which you can find the contents on this website ( has examples of such agrometeorological services and how they were established on-farm. It should be clear that services can never be established without the availability and presence of well-trained extension intermediaries and/or farmer facilitators. If they are not sufficiently trained, “Science Field Shops” may temporarily be organized for the starting up of such improved extension mechanisms (see also my column till December 2011).

What we actually do is linking science-based (agro)climatological products and problem solving in the agricultural production environment for various categories of farmers and extension intermediaries. This particularly contributes to increasing the useful operational applicability of weather science, climate science and various fields of agricultural sciences. This must be seen as a contribution to science itself.

Those wanting to get meteorological and/or climate services established in whatever form in relevant activities of society should be aware that they should not confuse these services with information and/or advisories. As with rather some governmental or commercial services, actually establishing them in weather and climate sciences with the beneficiaries is very demanding. In agriculture it asks for training of extension intermediaries and bringing new knowledge to farmers.

I thank Ms. Gugu N.C. Zuma-Netshiukhwi, promovenda at the University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa, for the discussions we had on these matters.

PS. I just saw the great information job done by IRI and the Ethiopian weather services:

That is a great example of making data available in the best possible form, but it is even this way still only information. In the above link to that extremely useful information, you also find examples on how this information is and can be made into advisories and services.

Farsi Translation

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