INSAM homepage until March 2010
INSAM homepage until March 2010.
While the turmoil in Copenhagen went on and on, I was even not able to follow it. I was travelling Indramayu, west Java, Indonesia, with a local counterpart anthropologist and some of her students from the Universitas Indonesia (Depok, near Jakarta). We were consulting farmers in the partly irrigated and partly rain fed (mainly rice growing) areas on their perceptions of climate change and we were answering their questions on that subject and its consequences for their daily life and immediate future.
As many other parts of the world, much of Indonesia is experiencing a rainy season with El Nino characteristics after two consecutive years with considerable (but varying) La Nina characteristics. At the moment of writing this homepage, in the first week of the second half of December, the situation looks very bleak. With hardly any rains in October, November brought an (already late) start, with from modest to very low rainfall, but a long dry period followed in December (be it not everywhere as long as in Indramayu).
To some parts of Indramayu this means just enough water from rains and supplementary irrigation for one rice crop, other parts have to do mainly with meagre remaining irrigation sources while again other parts try to cope using pumped water that however is also of limited amounts. Without that additional (but expensive) resource, for many this first rice crop of the 2009/2010 rainy season remains insecure if December rainfall does not become any better. Experiments with dry nurseries, other ways of sowing, SRI variations are already on. If one complaint from all farmers here became clear, now and at earlier visits, it is about the government failing to repair, maintain, renew and extend the irrigation facilities, something a recent FAO/IWMI report also urged Asian governments to spend there money on, if they want to survive with the farmers (Javier Blas in the Financial Times of 18/8/’09, p.4).
In the same period I also visited with counterparts of the University Gadjah Mada for the fifth time farmers in Gunungkidul, Wonosari, near Yogyakarta, Central Java. Here we discussed an expansion of the rainfall measurements in farmers’ fields, started there in 2008 (and in Indramayu in 2009). For the approach see our paper on these measurements under “Accounts of Operational Agrometeorology”. It was eye catching how farmers here already adapted to the bad start of the season by expanding intercropping of mainly rice, maize and cassava and keeping up the ridges recently introduced to prevent run off in showers. Also here we consulted the farmers and replied to their questions.
Why are we making such efforts? The answer you may find in a very recent Oxfam report titled “What happened to the seasons?” (http://www.oxfam.org.uk/resources/policy/climate_change/downloads/research_what_happened_to_seasons.pdf). “Around the world, farmers are reporting that the seasons are changing”, says the New Agriculturist in its awareness paper “Farmers’ perspectives on a changing climate” (http://www.new-ag.info/focuson.php). “Seasons are becoming hotter and drier, rainy seasons shorter, more violent and increasingly erratic, and some temperate seasons are disappearing altogether. (……) The results are striking because of the extraordinary consistency they show across the world. (……) Changing seasonality may be one of the most significant impacts of climate change for poor farmers, and that is happening now”.
With predictions that seasonal changes are likely to get worse due to climate change, the authors of the Oxfam Report insist that farmers need assistance to adapt. Organizing farmers around rainfall measurements we see as a start to exchange information by groups of farmers on these data and their consequences as well as on what adaptations are necessary/possible.
This ultimately should lead to joint visions on vulnerabilities, necessary improvements and changes, and on situations of injustice. Farmer/Climate Field Schools as permanent educational commitments could institutionalize services to tackle serious problems. Increased resilience and better preparedness to face climate change in a joint rural response should this way be aimed at.
I was approached by a Dutch television broadcasting company with the question what improved weather data would mean for poor farmers. I indicated that work in Africa, India, China and Indonesia shows that such better information and forecasting would only make sense in the above context, to be used in the mentioned services. Otherwise they would be of very little help.
I teach my students in my Roving Seminars that sustainable land management is predominantly a conflict resolution issue among the major stakeholders. Informed outsiders involved must, in the words of Susan Neiman in her book “Moral Clarity, a guide for grown-up idealists” (The Bodley Head, London, 2009) “take risks by challenging power to seek justice for innocents they do not know”. That is what NGOs and related support organizations did in Copenhagen. It is what we do in our Indonesian field work, with this amendment that we know at least some of those innocent victims of climate change.
When you read this, for many a new year has started. INSAM continues to grow, giving us the feeling that we have your support in our approaches. We reached 1350 members just before the change of year, that is an increase with 350 members in the last 20 months! However, we want much more. We want your experiences, your plans, your problems and hopes and those of the farmers you work with or would want to work with. We at INSAM - your often enthusiastic reactions notwithstanding - also want your direct collaboration in the collection of news, highlights, happenings, problems, solutions, successes and failures from the rural areas of this world. With your help we will all be able to better understand what has to be done and where the solutions have to be found. Don’t let us down. We wish you a great year and ourselves much actual support.