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INSAM homepage until March 2008

Last modified March 11, 2008 15:25

INSAM homepage until March 2008

Climate related disasters, seen as forced marriages between weather/climate hazards and vulnerabilities, need responses. Disaster risk mainstreaming, dealing with disasters as development issues, contains local preparedness measures (for what can’t be prevented), mitigation measures (to minimize consequences) and contingency measures (to counteract and temper consequences). But all these measures are forms of preparedness to reduce the impacts of disasters by actual responses.

As to the contingency measures in agricultural production, certain countries, such as Bangladesh with respect to floods and cyclones, and India with respect to droughts, have increasingly prepared themselves for immediate assistance to victims after these disasters strike. International assistance is most visibly present for example in Africa since very many years. Such climate and weather related disasters as to contingency measures are very similar to earth quakes and tsunamis and should be prepared for in similar ways.

Mitigation measures are conflict ridden. As far as climate change is concerned, the greenhouse gasses debate is the immediate front runner in discussing mitigation of causes and an example of many conflicts of interest. Mitigation measures to reduce disaster impacts in agricultural production are planning related and often marred by decisions in times the disasters don’t strike that appear catastrophical as soon as they strike. Problems with responsibilities in land allocations and chances with insurances enter, corruption creeps in, resource wars rage or loom (e.g. Sudan, Congo, Palestine, Columbia).

Without extreme political situations, basically impact mitigations are all aspects of rural governance, preferably decentralized and at the lowest organizational level (districts, communities, villages), also in agricultural production. This sometimes is related to promotion of diversification, such as in rice production in Asia, sometimes to addressing changes in land use between various agricultural uses or between use in- and outside agricultural production. Climate change has made these planning issues often more urgent and more complicated.

It is slowly emerging that in agricultural production local preparedness for the changing realities of weather and climate should best be addressed by agrometeorological services. This means that the products of NMHSs and of applied science at Research Institutes and Universities are made available through organized guidance of farmers to respond to climate change related and other calamities. Basically that is where Extension Services were established for, but with few exceptions (Israel, China - be it often with a potential for improved information - and slowly starting in India) relations between the above mentioned institutions and Extension Services largely failed.

All over the world, there are ample examples of permanent, slow and fast traditional adaptations to seasonal variability for coping strategies and food security. The return of intercropping, sequential cropping and agroforestry to parts of Asia and the Pacific is an example. In fact these adaptations may be seen as the oldest examples of response farming. However, there are no expectations of improvement of these traditional “fitting” methods per se under the presently fastly changing conditions. Their blending with more scientific meteorological/climatological approaches into actual services for farmers in new forms of response farming appears the only way forwards.

Among the greatest challenges in disaster impact reductions is reaching earlier already well prepared and trained communities timely with early warning messages that can be followed up in also earlier decided, well received and well rehearsed response strategies. It is necessary to distinguish (i) immediate disasters such as cyclones and related floods, for which early warning messages must reach potential victims within hours, and (ii) slow, more seasonal disasters such as late and false starts of the rainy season, extended dry spells and longer droughts, or the occurrence of weather/climate related pests and diseases, that become visible in more creeping ways. The latter can be as devastating for agricultural production as the former. Climate change has altered the characters of these disasters.

This demands new extension approaches and, living part of the year in Indonesia, I recently wrote in the Jakarta Post on the above and on one of these new extension approaches, Climate Field Schools (CFSs). To my surprise the reactions on that paper were manifold and the idea of the use of CFSs to face climate change, originating in Indonesia (remember an INSAM home page on this, earlier this year), has suddenly been picked up far and wide.

Indeed, such services in facing climate change, through CFSs and other new Extension Services approaches by intermediaries between scientific products and farmers, must play an important role in overcoming the many difficulties in increasing preparedness for disaster impact risks. The products and their applications can be improved by using Geographic Information Systems, Communication Technologies, downscaled weather/climate forecasts and many other scientific endeavours. The services can be improved by training intermediaries and users appropriately.

INSAM, from the beginning, has been focusing on agrometeorological services and we will continue to also pay attention to the related response farming, CFSs, and the backing they need from applied agrometeorology and, where shown necessary, fundamental agrometeorology. By becoming a free of charge member of INSAM, you will be part of these developments in the undercurrent of agrometeorology. By writing small contributions for our website and/or becoming a founding member (see the website under Society Information) you will support these trends even more.

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