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INSAM homepage until September 2008

Last modified September 01, 2008 13:44

INSAM homepage until September 2008

I did send a note to members in April that I am too frequently getting letters from students in the developing world who are desperately looking for training in more practical subjects. Subjects in crop, soil and harvest protection as well as in crop, water, land and microclimate management and manipulation for improved yields. In short: training in assisting in response farming. Preferably with a social bottom up approach component. Because it is clear that poverty alleviation demands this. (See our Agromet Market Place of 4 April 2008).

I received more than 20 reactions and this summer, after my return to the Netherlands, I will compile a “catalogue” of the replies, which we can then update every half a year or so. I observe certain hopeful developments in those reactions for bridging the gap between products from research & services and users. By this way allowing farmers to adapt to the reality of a changing and more variable as well as more aggressive climate.

Such hope also comes from a recent study reported by Donovan Campbell from Jamaica (see recently under “Accounts of Operational Agrometeorology”). In his paper “Negotiating uncertainty: small farmers’ adaptive strategies before and after an encounter with hurricane Dean in Jamaica”, he shows that despite high levels of vulnerability, farmers have demonstrated that successful adaptation can be achieved at the farm level. Employing assets available to them, farmers in the study area have demonstrated a number of damage-reducing strategies to lessen their exposure to Hurricane Dean (August 2007).

The author believes that government policies must address strategies to increase the adaptive capacity and responses of farmers. Farmers in hurricane prone areas need help to adapt to these changes within their environment. To help farmers and by extension improve food security in the country, more adaptation options to these climate extremes need to be made available, says Donovan Campbell.

I have drawn comparable conclusions with respect to adaptations to climate change when involved last month in discussions with farmer alumni of a Climate Field School in Gunung Kidul, Yogyakarta, Indonesia (See again recently under Accounts of Operational Agrometeorology). In my report “Worries of Climate Field School farmers in Gunung Kidul, Yogyakarta, Indonesia: climate change, water use efficiency and adaptations of cropping systems” it says that the farmers’ presentation of experience showed the great knowledge that farmers have acquired on suitable crops, in connection with their soils, and the adaptations they are performing to changing conditions related to climate/weather and market developments.

I argued that it is therefore a wrong practice to make scenarios for the future based on extension of present practices and systems. Farmers do adapt more often and faster than mostly assumed. They need help to do this more efficiently and to disseminate results beyond the local trials, but crop choice is a dynamic practice on most soils and will have to be more so under a changing climate.

Response farming is known by farmers but can be improved and extended beyond their empirical methods by the use of experience from elsewhere and of science and participatory experiments. Climate change complicates response farming but this does not change the principles of the approach (see my paper in the April issue of the WMO-Bulletin).

In connection with the above I want to raise another issue, that of field quantification. As an experimental physicist by education that got concerned with farmer livelihoods, I have been fascinated by Robert Chambers’ (1990) “Microenvironments Unobserved” (IIED Gatekeeper Series 22) as a connection between these livelihoods and the environment to be quantified. This paper was written before my Traditional Techniques of Microclimate Improvement (TTMI) Project started to publish and I got to know it only much later, but we had quite a number of common inspirers (Miguel Altieri, Anil Gupta, Paul Harrison, Paul Richards, Robert Rhoades, Gene Wilken).

Chambers and his associates then went on showing the need for the kind of understanding from which I have drawn hope in the above. We went on observing these microenvironments quantitatively to understand processes involved in traditional knowledge based techniques, this way understanding them better, including their scope and limitations. In my Roving Seminars, these results obtained between 1980 and 2000 illustrate well the value of field quantifications of these “unobserved environments”, but always in the context of solving livelihood problems of farmers related to their crucially exploited environments.

Having reached more than 1000 members, we are flabbergasted by the increase in visits of our website to now even above 700 a day last month. This recent increase occurred after some of our reports appeared on the Global Farmer Field School Listserve (Global-FFS-l), which has been launched as part of the Global Farmer Field School Network and Resource Centre (FFSnet). For connecting with farmer livelihoods, you may be interested to have a look at

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