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INSAM homepage until September 2010

Last modified September 30, 2010 16:31

INSAM homepage until September 2010.

One of our weaknesses in agrometeorology (and not only there) is the lack of institutionalization of actions and measures benefitting poor farmers in developing countries. You all will know examples of such weaknesses. For example the pilot project on a Roving Seminar that Professor Murthy was able to get sponsored in Andhra Pradesh, India (see our INSAM topic of  “Needs for agrometeorological solutions to farming problems” of 19 February 2008) has never had the follow-up that was expected from the Indian government. Another example are the Farmer Field Schools (FFSs) on Integrated Pest Management (IPM, particularly on fighting the Brown Plant Hopper (BPH) pest in rice) that brought fame to Indonesia. I already indicated under our INSAM topic “Educational Aspects of Agrometeorology” of November 2009 that FAO’s pilot projects with FFSs in IPM in China never got institutionalized there. The same is, unfortunately, true in Indonesia.

One of my counterparts at the University of Gadjah Mada (UGM), Yogyakarta, Central Java, Indonesia, the entomologist Prof. Kasumbogo Untung, told me recently that he had been invited by the Ministry of Agriculture to make new field observations about the ongoing and this year even growing BPH outbreaks in core  rice areas in West, Central and East Java. Thousands of these areas were severely damaged by BPH during last rainy seasons. I am sure, he said, that the causes of recent  BPH outbreaks in Indonesia were  increasing climate variability (due to climate change), the forced extension of areas with hybrid rice and wide uses of insecticides by farmers. I (KS) add here that this is particularly due to the fact that FFSs for IPM were as good as abandoned where they should have got institutionalized by the Indonesian government. The same applies to Climate Field Schools (CFSs) in Indonesia.

My counterpart at the Universitas Indonesia (UI), Depok, West Java, the anthropologist Mrs. Prof. Yunita T. Winarto, went some years ago into the voids that were left by a CFS in Wareng, Gunungkidul, near Yogyakarta. I joined her there somewhat later. [See my reports under the INSAM topic “Accounts of Operational Agrometeorology” of 7 January and 27 May, 2008.] We found that the farmers there were left with more questions than answers and her work there is now continued by a group of scientists at UGM, that I join as an advisor a few times a year, at a so called Science Field Shop (SFS), a gathering of scientists and farmers we established in the villages of Wareng on subjects determined by the latter related to the difficulties experienced by these farmers in the ongoing season.

However, what we mainly do is to assist in some current issues but at the same time we determine subjects for future CFSs and FFSs, because future institutionalization is what we have to demand from the Indonesian Government. Without that there will not be real progress.
We should in fact realize, as we established last May at a round table discussion in the Faculty of Social and Political Sciences at UI, that the “Climate Change” issue is just a new perspective on older issues of poverty and degradation of agricultural and urban environments that governments failed to address properly in the past. That is why not climate forecasting but vulnerability issues should be the entry point to these problem fields.

To the point policies were either not designed or not carried out. And that failure has almost everywhere to do with inappropriate governance and the related absence of environmental and social security networks. These absences are themselves mainly due to corruption and inadequate management of natural resources and their earnings, in connection with failing educational systems. As I argue in my Roving Seminars in agricultural meteorology, that are of course not institutionalized and that I give throughout this world as a scientific volunteer, there must be established a “climate of public and private rural and urban services” for a country to make real progress in fighting poverty.

One of the main issues here are means of communication, that are in my view part of sustainable development.  I was very impressed by the description that Dietmar Rothermund gives in his 2008 “India, the rise of an Asian giant” of attempts to reach the villages in India with modern information and communication technologies, driven by wishes of social inclusion of the rural masses. We are only still in need, he says, of more and better low cost devices that can really bridge the digital divide and of better educational facilities that allow many more poor people to make use of them.

With close to 40% of the Indian population being really poor, that is something like 400 million people (Jyoti Thottam in Time of 3 May 2010), and with at least one third of its children between 6 and 14 not going to primary school, the priorities of many will also still lay elsewhere. See also my recent discussion with Mohan Reddy Vishwavaram of the Hyderabad Water Forum, India, under our INSAM topic “Two Views” of May 2010. In getting agrometeorological services established and applied at a large scale, education and communication have to be really essential ingredients of local policies.

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