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INSAM homepage until October 2004

Last modified October 23, 2004 11:34

INSAM homepage until October 2004

As your founding president I have been writing these home page introductions since our establishment. I have brought up many issues related to INSAM but also more general ones with respect to the place of agricultural meteorology in agricultural production in different parts of the world. I strongly believe with many of you that as agrometeorologists we have a task in assisting farmers everywhere to cope with the vagaries of weather and climate and in protecting the agricultural resource bases involved from degradation. Your free of charge membership of INSAM will assist us to interact among ourselves on such issues.

These texts, my standpoints as president of the Commission for Agricultural Meteorology (1991 – 1999) as well as the approaches and results of my projects in Africa and Asia led Dr. Hessam Taba, WMO, Geneva, to arranging an interview with me for the WMO-Bulletin in his long chain of interviews with meteorologists and climatologists. It appeared in the April issue that just came out. We have therefore now replaced the most recent “Letter of the President” by this interview. You will recognize many issues I handled here before and you will find there also many other subjects and arguments that I trust are of interest to agricultural meteorologists throughout the world.

INSAM wants indeed to cover that whole world and we try to bring out what we have in common as well as the differences. Among the largest differences between societies in industrialized countries and those in non-industrialized, still developing countries are the level and scale of basic and applied research and of the use that is made of the results of such research, obtained locally or elsewhere. In highly organized countries, farmers and those in agriculture related supportive industries and other support systems work in contact with each other. Or various relatively well-organized channels exist along which information can flow. Public institutions, interest groups and private initiatives on a commercial basis stimulate this.

In agricultural production in western countries, only those producers that can organize themselves to make use of old and new knowledge, and that can pay for available support services, will survive under conditions of intentionally enabling public institutions and biased global markets. History shows that farming in industrialized countries was able to cope with often painful adaptations, because of these institutions and conditions. However, the resource base is endangered in many places. This applies also to production where agricultural meteorology and agroclimatology play a most often protective role with respect to yield formation and concerning the resource base made use of. The role of INSAM for industrialized countries is to publish your short reviews on these problems and to increase the awareness on what agrometeorologists do and could do on these issues.

In developing countries public institutions are seldom sufficiently helpful, rarely sufficiently organized and often not intentionally enabling its own officers or others to meaningfully support agricultural producers in decision making, while markets are not conducive to production improvements. Poor countries have little means and what becomes available is often badly used. Private enterprise is mostly too rudimentary developed, not the least because most farmers are too poor to pay support services on a commercial basis. This means that to a large extent only richer farmers are able to make use of whatever support systems are organized while the majority of marginal farmers are left in misery.

However, wherever local governments or non-governmental organizations are willing to serve existing farming systems, only very modest structures are in place that can deliver suitable information; or use existing information to create appropriate services to farmers in decision making on their production activities. Further environmental deterioration and alienating poverty are often a consequence of that absence of focused assistance. The role of INSAM in developing countries is therefore to report on (i) lights that you see at the end of the tunnels, (ii) successes with small groups of farmers in improving conditions of production or preparedness for disasters and (iii) how and why vested interests spoil our attempts to support low external input agriculture and what can be done about it in agrometeorology.

The more members we are in INSAM, the more experience we can exchange. We would like to remain informed on the role INSAM played in bringing you together and on how we can do even much better.

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