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INSAM homepage until October 2006

Last modified October 17, 2006 18:52

INSAM homepage until October 2006

In an editorial that soon will appear in Agricultural and Forest Meteorology I recall that only a few years ago René Gommes, agrometeorologist with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Corporate Founding Member of INSAM, wrote that in most countries there has never been any serious market research to identify potential customers of agrometeorological services. This includes in developing countries customers (plantations, livestock, commercial farmers, land and ocean fisheries, banks, traders etc.) who would be in a position to pay for services and, indirectly, fund activities aimed at less wealthy farmers. In these nations, all suffering heavily from increasing climate variability and climate change, this situation persists today.

The above confirmed earlier findings, in a study made ten years ago by my former Wageningen University colleague Jon Wieringa for COST (the European COoperation in the field of Scientific and Technical research) in Brussels. From abundant questionnaires he found that the idea that National Weather Services were adequately providing European farmers with weather services was wishful thinking. Timely availability of data for an affordable prize was the main problem issue, while acceptance and use by farmers was also weak. There nevertheless are still public services successfully providing good data and forecasts to farmers in Europe, such as in France (Météo France/CSM, Commission Agriculture), Ireland (Eireann Agricultural & Environmental Unit, scientifically nourished by AGMET, see under our topic of Working Groups) and (for irrigation scheduling) in Alentejo, Portugal (remember the second prize in the INSAM contest 2004/2005).

However, what happened in Europe over the last ten years is that agrometeorological services have slowly gone in the direction of private enterprise providing such services commercially, the way it went in the USA already earlier. This is easier in developed countries because of the relatively high level of education and reasonable income of farmers, which also form only a very small and still decreasing percentage of the population. There are examples of such kinds of services being exported for use by richer farmers in Eastern Europe, Japan and South America and African countries like South Africa and Egypt.

In some developing countries one may also find good examples of successful public weather services. The provincial drought early warning and advisory service in Camagüey province, Cuba, recently won an INSAM contest of good examples. Interpretations of maps of satellite derived Sea Surface Temperatures that influence fish concentration, faxed by the Indian Meteorological Department to selected harbours, guide organizations of fishermen. In Mali, West Africa, agrometeorological pilot projects, originally funded by foreign donors, are carried out by the National Weather Services. They provide useful information to assist farmers in planning of their common field operations and in rational use of their farmlands, resulting in 15 till 60% yield increases.
In Wuchuan, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China, farmers successfully introduced proposed measures to combat water and wind erosion in cold hilly areas with enough rainfall in the growing season, where grassland had been replaced by seasonal crops. These measures, however, can be much improved if wind erosion science is better used, as I was allowed to prove there. Several such examples that worked but could use appreciable improvement were also reported from Ethiopia in a publication of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), another Corporate Founding Member of INSAM. This regarded for example climate issues influencing establishment of coffee and tea plantations and the optimization of livestock production and marketing for pastoralists.

These are all cases where local scientists and environmental officers, sometimes assisted by joint research under development cooperation, collaborate with local government extension organizations; to design and introduce such services to limited groups of local farmers, pastoralists, forest dwellers, fishermen and their communities. Participation of those farmers etc. from the beginning appeared an essential condition for success. Differentiation and upscaling are among the largest difficulties. I will come back to these issues at the next occasion.

In the above I have mentioned Corporate Founding Members of INSAM (and other groups on which you can find information on our site). Have a look at our Society Information page and think for us about organizations/companies/institutes that for a one time 500 Euro would like to be associated with INSAM as Corporate Founding Members. We have only little money and we need to pay our contest prizes and administrative costs. Help us. Also ordinary founding members are still welcome during these first five years of our site. Again see our Society Information page.

The most worrisome issue for INSAM presently is the fact that only a very few people determine the contents of the information we have available. We would very much like to widen this but we need our members for that, old members and as many as possible new members. Registration is easy but please also consider small contributions or send us matters you come across related to agrometeorology and the agricultural environment. Exchange of focused information is the cornerstone of internet usefulness. Be part of it.

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