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INSAM homepage until September 2011

Last modified September 30, 2011 09:50

INSAM homepage until September 2011.

In December 2010 I was an external examiner to the Ph.D.-thesis of (now) Dr. Durton Nanja, of Zambia, at the University of the Free State (UFS), Bloemfontein, South Africa. The subject of that thesis was “Dissemination of climate information to small-holder farmers: a case study for Mujika Area, Zambia”, supervised by Prof. Sue Walker and co-supervised by Prof. Denford Musvosvi.

Mr. Nanja was in 2008 one of my students at my second Roving Seminar in Bloemfontein on “Agrometeorology and sustainable development”, that year organized for the first time in South Africa by Prof. Walker and myself at UFS. Already then we thought about having my Roving Seminars also in Zambia. Later it was dreamt up that we would have a Roving Seminar near Mujika and combine it with celebrations around the appearance of two booklets with parts of the thesis. And so I was giving my first Roving Seminar, “Agrometeorological services, theory and practice”, in April 2011 at the College of Agriculture in Monze, central Zambia, for 30 mid- and late-career participants from Meteorology and from Agriculture.

At the end of the fourth full day of the Seminar we had in the auditorium of the College a programme for the launching of the “Handbook for Community Agrometeorological Participatory Extension Services” (by Durton Nanja and Sue Walker). My contribution to that launching ceremony, on behalf of INSAM, with the title “Community participatory agrometeorological services”, you can find under “Accounts of Operational Agrometeorology” on this website. The Handbook itself, that was that afternoon handed out to some government officials and to the participants of the Roving Seminar by the Deputy Permanent Secretary for Southern Province, Mr. Alfred Chingi, is now also available directly from the home page of our website.

The next day the Roving Seminar ended with an excursion of the participants to Mujika Area, where from an agglomeration of 16 villages, several collaborated in the work on which the thesis reports. There, more than 600 people, of which about 550 villagers from the Mujika community, came together for celebrating, with sketches showing the changes that had occurred in the extension practices and of course with music in the way only Africa can celebrate, the doctors degree of “their” Durton Nanja and the launching of yet another publication by him. It was called: “Mujika Personal Stories: Climate Learning Changing Livelihoods”. Again it was handed out by Mr. Alfred Chingi, now to government officials and village headmen and other village representatives.

Also this publication is now available directly from our homepage. It are observations from five farmers on a range of subjects, from baseline information to rainfall performance, soil fertility, crop productivity, seasons, available institutions and gender issues. They go from household interviews to farmers’ views on alternative interventions and opportunities, as well as farmers’ observations in planning and testing farmer choices.

In my observations in my public remarks at this last function, I started to tell that my first visit to Africa, as a tourist, was in 1964, to taste life in this special continent. Five years later I was, like in the morning of this very day, driving through a comparable savannah landscape as a climatologist in Madagascar, in 1969, when I was 29, to inspect weather stations and install rain gauges for a project in the Morondava catchment, now 42 years ago. Such pleasant memories came back to me, making me very content with still working in rural Africa.

I then pointed at a banner that we used at the two booklet launches and I observed that the terminology of “services” was first used for agrometeorology by Olufayo, Stigter and Baldy in Agricultural and Forest Meteorology in a paper in 1998 (“On needs and deeds in agrometeorology in tropical Africa.”). The model pictured on the banner, where we used three domains as “farmers”, “solutions” and “support systems” I launched in 2007 (in New Delhi in a WMO meeting on new curricula in agrometeorology and in Beijing at a CAAS policy meeting, later published in Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment in 2008 in a paper “Agrometeorology from science to extension: Assessment of needs and provision of services.”). The participatory approach, of which the banner also spoke, was advocated in agricultural research and extension (including agrometeorology) since the late 1980s. We used it particularly in Sudan, Nigeria and Kenya in our African projects in the nineties.

This was all extremely important but not new at this very moment. But one word on that banner made a large difference with the past and that was the word “community”. As I had also observed the previous day, even in the most modern extension we promote, that of “Farmer Field Schools” and “Climate Field Schools”, upscaling is the next limiting factor. One approach to upscaling is the multiplier effect reached in “training trainers”, such as “farmer facilitators” that become “farmer trainers”. The other approach is a community strategy. Durton Nanja and Sue Walker have shown us a way in agricultural meteorology to use such a community strategy as an upscaling in participatory extension and participatory agrometeorological services.

Have a serious look at the “Handbook for Community Agrometeorological Participatory Extension Services” and the booklet of “Mujika Personal Stories: Climate Learning Changing Livelihoods”. Consider what you can do yourself with communities in your country in this field of extension in agrometeorology. The livelihood crises of farmers can only be solved with such approaches.

This is also a new step in the direction of “Reaching farmers in a changing climate”, my third and latest “Roving Seminar” of one week that I gave in Depok (Indonesia) at the Universitas Indonesia in February and in Bloemfontein at UFS in March. It is interesting to note that in Mujika as well as in the Indonesian villages where we work with farmers, it was initially still a debate whether it is a task of human beings to “forecast” weather and climate that “influence” growth conditions, or whether this is in the hand of God only. But, one of the participants told me, they ultimately accepted this because doctors also “forecast” the birth of children and whether patients “will get cured or will die”. When we allow this, yes even demand this, why not in the case of what is so important for our agricultural production?

In the meantime, thanks to you, INSAM has now over 1600 members from 123 countries. We have received members from five new countries over the last few months only. Thank you for advocating and advertising INSAM.

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