Coping with climate risk in agriculture needs farmer oriented research and extension policies

Conviver com os riscos climáticos na agricultura requer pesquisas e políticas de extensão voltadas às necessidades dos produtores

Abstracts

The first necessary change for agrometeorology, in generally lower (external) input parts of agriculture in developing countries, is on research and extension. They have to refocus to preparedness for risks and uncertainties of local farming systems in need of support in four defined directions of prioritization, emphasis depending on the farming system concerned. These are (i) extreme events and their consequences caused by meteorological and climatological disasters on all time scales, including related aversion attempts; (ii) pests and diseases, including countervailing measures; (iii) trying to use beneficial climate and weather and (iv) applications of agrometeorological services. The second necessary change for such agrometeorology is participation of farmers in the establishment of agrometeorological services with well trained intermediaries in such undertakings as Climate Field Schools. The third necessary change is that agrometeorological services should be developed in such a way as to increase the resilience of farmers, in line with further and wider developments to be stimulated in rural areas. The most important and most insecure factors, however, will have to do with the socio-political allies to be supported to create - and keep everywhere - on a large scale the enabling environment. To sole cropping work, to which most response farming advisories were dedicated, if any, multiple cropping agrometeorological services have to be added. They should ideally belong to a new service environment in rural areas in progressing countries.

Climate Field Schools; agrometeorological services; participation; preparedness; resilience


A primeira necessidade de mudança na agrometeorologia, em geral na agricultura dos países em desenvolvimento, é em pesquisa e extensão. Elas devem ser focadas na preparação dos sistemas agrícolas locais para lidar com os riscos e incertezas, de modo a dar suporte em quatro direções de prioridades, com sua ênfase dependendo do sistema agrícola considerado. Estas são: (i) eventos extremos e suas conseqüências causadas por desastres meteorológicos e climatológicos em todas as escalas de tempo; (ii) pragas e doenças, incluindo medidas de compensação; (iii) procurar utilizar de forma benéfica as condições de clima e tempo; e (iv) aplicações dos serviços agrometeorológicos. A segunda mudança necessária para tal agrometeorologia é a participação dos produtores no estabelecimento dos serviços agrometeorológicos com intermediários bem treinados em empreendimentos tais como Escolas de Campo de Climatologia. A terceira mudança necessária é que os serviços agrometeorológicos deveriam ser desenvolvidos de tal forma a aumentar a resilência dos agricultores, de acordo com mudanças posteriores e mais amplas a serem estimuladas em áreas rurais. Os fatores mais importantes e inseguros terão, entretanto, que estar relacionados com os aliados sócio-políticos no sentido de estarem assessorados para criar - e manter em todo lugar - em uma ampla escala, o ambiente apto. Aos monocultivos, aos quais a maioria das recomendações agrícolas foram dedicadas, deve-se adicionar os serviços agrometeorológicos destinados aos cultivos múltiplos. Esses, idealmente, deveriam fazer parte de uma nova política ambiental em áreas rurais de países em desenvolvimento.

Escolas de Campo de Climatologia; serviços agrometeorológicos; participação; preparação; resiliência


REVIEW

Coping with climate risk in agriculture needs farmer oriented research and extension policies

Conviver com os riscos climáticos na agricultura requer pesquisas e políticas de extensão voltadas às necessidades dos produtores

Kees Stigter

Agromet Vision - Groenestraat 13, 5314 AJ Bruchem, the Netherlands & P.O. Box 16, 68208 Bondowoso, Indonesia - e-mail <cjstigter@usa.net>

ABSTRACT

The first necessary change for agrometeorology, in generally lower (external) input parts of agriculture in developing countries, is on research and extension. They have to refocus to preparedness for risks and uncertainties of local farming systems in need of support in four defined directions of prioritization, emphasis depending on the farming system concerned. These are (i) extreme events and their consequences caused by meteorological and climatological disasters on all time scales, including related aversion attempts; (ii) pests and diseases, including countervailing measures; (iii) trying to use beneficial climate and weather and (iv) applications of agrometeorological services. The second necessary change for such agrometeorology is participation of farmers in the establishment of agrometeorological services with well trained intermediaries in such undertakings as Climate Field Schools. The third necessary change is that agrometeorological services should be developed in such a way as to increase the resilience of farmers, in line with further and wider developments to be stimulated in rural areas. The most important and most insecure factors, however, will have to do with the socio-political allies to be supported to create - and keep everywhere - on a large scale the enabling environment. To sole cropping work, to which most response farming advisories were dedicated, if any, multiple cropping agrometeorological services have to be added. They should ideally belong to a new service environment in rural areas in progressing countries.

Key words: Climate Field Schools, agrometeorological services, participation, preparedness, resilience

RESUMO

A primeira necessidade de mudança na agrometeorologia, em geral na agricultura dos países em desenvolvimento, é em pesquisa e extensão. Elas devem ser focadas na preparação dos sistemas agrícolas locais para lidar com os riscos e incertezas, de modo a dar suporte em quatro direções de prioridades, com sua ênfase dependendo do sistema agrícola considerado. Estas são: (i) eventos extremos e suas conseqüências causadas por desastres meteorológicos e climatológicos em todas as escalas de tempo; (ii) pragas e doenças, incluindo medidas de compensação; (iii) procurar utilizar de forma benéfica as condições de clima e tempo; e (iv) aplicações dos serviços agrometeorológicos. A segunda mudança necessária para tal agrometeorologia é a participação dos produtores no estabelecimento dos serviços agrometeorológicos com intermediários bem treinados em empreendimentos tais como Escolas de Campo de Climatologia. A terceira mudança necessária é que os serviços agrometeorológicos deveriam ser desenvolvidos de tal forma a aumentar a resilência dos agricultores, de acordo com mudanças posteriores e mais amplas a serem estimuladas em áreas rurais. Os fatores mais importantes e inseguros terão, entretanto, que estar relacionados com os aliados sócio-políticos no sentido de estarem assessorados para criar - e manter em todo lugar - em uma ampla escala, o ambiente apto. Aos monocultivos, aos quais a maioria das recomendações agrícolas foram dedicadas, deve-se adicionar os serviços agrometeorológicos destinados aos cultivos múltiplos. Esses, idealmente, deveriam fazer parte de uma nova política ambiental em áreas rurais de países em desenvolvimento.

Palavras-chave: Escolas de Campo de Climatologia, serviços agrometeorológicos, participação, preparação, resiliência

INTRODUCTION

To boost awareness on increasing climate variability and the elevating climate risk in agricultural production (and other uses of natural resources), most recently the new IPCC reports (WMO, 2007; RealClimate, 2007) and the work of Gore (2006), have scored very high.

In a first instance it will be the agrometeorologist's task here to develop understanding on the phenomena, impacts, actions, problems, solutions and policies related to priority extreme meteorological events that cause farmers and their local governments the largest difficulties in a region. In applied agrometeorology we must consider the causes of these phenomena known, as far as the basic sciences were able to explain their occurrence in the region. Detection of increasing climate variability is a matter of science (e.g. USDC/NOAA, 2007; WMO, 2007).

Awareness of elevating risks is a matter of extension (CPAS, 2004; Hansen & Sivakumar, 2006; Stigter, 2006a; UNFCCC, 2007). Glantz (1987) was the first to propose to get away from considering climate conditions as drought as a boundary condition. He proposed to consider climatic factors only in the context of development constraints but Dhameja (2001) considered the development-disaster interconnection a lost awareness. For example Lassa (2006), followed up by Rathore & Stigter (2007), reconnected the two, also in line with IPCC and other international trends (e.g. Hollister, 2007).

As observed in Stigter et al. (2003), obvious surface and subsurface drainage apart, for example on-farm storage of water in lowland and flat upland rice fields is the only example found of a solution of coping with floods in monocropping (Gomez, 2005). Floods originated by high rainfall cause soil erosion, but it is now generally accepted that also this is not simply a technical problem. The reason for a low success rate lies not only in the failure to solve certain technical aspects of the problem to full satisfaction, but also in the need to pay more attention to the social and economic roots of erosion crises (e.g. Roose, 1996; Kinama et al., 2007), so to development issues.

Research and extension policies

Solutions to problems due to extreme events are therefore to be found in a combination of agrometeorology with an understanding of the livelihood of farmers in which the agrometeorology has to be applied. This is where policy designs and policy preparations come into the picture (e.g. Baier, 2004). It is exactly this approach that WMO/CAgM (2006) has tried to promote in the last three decades by increasing the involvement of developing countries (Sivakumar et al., 2000; WMO, 2006). The same applies for example to FAO and UNEP (e.g. UNEP, 2000). One may talk about a policy divide, characterized by two distinct dimensions involving policy development and implementation, with some regions having strength in both and others still struggling in both and several in between (UNEP, 2003). Without solving this policy divide, also in agrometeorology, livelihood of farmers will not improve (e.g. Stigter, 2006a).

Socialization of agrometeorology means that policy matters of farmer oriented (i) action support systems (e.g. World Congress of Agroforestry, 2004; Stigter, 2006a), (ii) policy support options (e.g. Brown, 2003; Franzel et al., 2004) and (iii) capacity building strategies should get attention. Opportunities for agrometeorological services to farmers should be the guiding principle. For each of these three farmer oriented policy fields, we should prioritize agrometeorological aspects of how to cope operationally with risks and uncertainties from and preparedness for (i) extreme events and their consequences caused by meteorological and climatological disasters on all time scales, including related aversion attempts; (ii) pests and diseases, including countervailing measures; (iii) trying to use beneficial climate and weather and (iv) applications of agrometeorological services themselves.

Agrometeorological services are exemplified by agroclimatological characterization, design of microclimate management and manipulation, weather forecasting (including agrometeorological forecasting) and climate prediction, proposals of response farming, crop insurance and other advisories prepared for and by farmers in the previous three farmer oriented policy fields. For this to be possible, participative needs assessments should come first.

The available agrometeorological literature is most abundant for monocropping because it is the more general form of agricultural production in the western world, and often the more advanced form of production in other parts of the world, for which most research has been done. One may argue that this is particularly a form of industrialized agricultural production with commercial purposes already for a long time (e.g. Flynn, 1994). However, beyond the variability between " normal" seasons, unusual seasons are the next worries, particularly for the tropics with their more abundant disasters and consequential risks (Stigter, 2007a).

In developing countries with lower levels of input, and in their hilly and mountainous areas in particular, multiple cropping is a traditional method of intensive farming in their climates (Baldy & Stigter, 1993, 1997). It attempts optimal use, also with respect to risks of total crop failure in dry farming, of (associations of) local or other varieties of food and cash crops (including trees) proven to be suitable. This way there ideally should also be optimal use of land, water, solar radiation and other climatic factors, nutrients, labour and other socio-economic factors such as those related to round the year food availability for the farmer's household, marketability and prices.

Important from the point of view of agrometeorology is the question whether higher yields in a mixed, inter- or relay cropping system are due to a more complete use of the available resources over time or a more efficient use of the same resources in space. Because of sustainability in fragile or vulnerable systems, special attention is needed for responses in cases of actual limiting factors and of advantageous factors (services rendered) of one crop to the other (e.g. Stigter & Baldy, 1993). Box 1 holds a successful example from Latin America, showing also what agrometeorology could do to improve such systems (Stigter, 2007b).

The multiple cropping situations are much more complex than the monocropping ones and the same applies to the farming systems concerned and the agrometeorology to be used. Stigter & Baldy (1989) distinguished and exemplified four types of multiple cropping systems with an ultimate distinction in the management of their biomass and the reasons behind this management. Multiple cropping of the first type is the purely sequential system in the same crop space or part of it. It of course most resembles monocropping. The second type are spatial and temporal intercropping systems without " active" services rendered from any intercrop to another crop. There are " passive" services on resource use in time and space. In the third type there are " active" services resulting in microclimatological (Stigter & Baldy, 1991, 1993) and/or other advantages, for a sequential crop (carrying over effects) or a companion crop and/or the cropping environment. The fourth type are complex combinations of dominating and dominated components in space and time of highest intimacy (oases, homegardens).

This complexity has a large influence on the related farmer oriented extension that is needed while the farmer oriented research has also been much less for the farming systems concerned, while these appear essential for impacts (Franzel et al., 2004). This leads to the first necessary change we formulate for agrometeorology in generally lower (external) input parts of agriculture in developing countries. Research and extension have to refocus to preparedness for risks and uncertainties of local farming systems in need of support in the above defined four directions of prioritization, emphasis depending on the farming system concerned.

Participation

Stigter et al. (2007) argued the importance of paying attention to the enormous need for training of extension personnel at the intermediate level between makers of agrometeorological products and end users. For the establishment of agrometeorological services it has been proposed to train two kinds of intermediaries, of which the ones closest to extension would have to organize the participation of farmers.

In non-industrialized countries, training of extension intermediaries would go a long way in solving problems for various groups of all but the richest and best educated farmers. In recent operational developments this includes developing extension around the establishment of agrometeorological services. Particularly in all poorer countries, intermediaries should be the ones in direct contact with participating agricultural communities. Box 2 gives an example of an approach with Climate Field Schools in Indonesia in which this farmer participation is organized by the government (Stigter, 2007a). This is the second necessary change we formulate for agrometeorology in generally lower (external) input parts of agriculture in developing countries. Participation of farmers in the establishment of agrometeorological services with well trained intermediaries in such undertakings as Climate Field Schools is a necessary condition for tackling the priority problems with agrometeorological components of the various farming systems.

Preparedness

Understanding on the phenomena, impacts, actions, problems, solutions and policies related to priority extreme meteorological events that cause farmers and their local governments the largest difficulties in multiple cropping in a region may, with the exception of the phenomena, be supposed to be different from those in monocropping by the same category of farmers. An issue to attend to appears to be what multiple cropping systems have as defence strategies to extreme meteorological events that are less efficient or not available in monocropping and what science can contribute to understanding and developing such strategies to better prepare farmers.

It was argued already quite some time ago that " funding organizations have too often failed to see the importance of multiple cropping micrometeorology in combating the on-farm damaging effects of meteorological hazards in low external input agricultural production in Africa and elsewhere (Stigter et al., 1991). Gommes (2004) argued similarly as to response farming. Recently WMO (2001), using proposals by Salinger et al. (2000), advocated as solutions institutionalized long term " weather advisories on farming, production and cropping systems, in accordance with the possibilities for change in the different farming communities" , applying " to techniques of using inputs, soil conditions and planting densities, choices of cropping systems and varieties" .

In addition, other response farming extension " through on-line current advisories, on time scales and in space scales as required" would be necessary, exemplified by " weather and climate forecasts and timely advises on farm operations such as sowing dates, weeding, fertilizing, spraying, integrated pest management, harvesting and drying" (Salinger et al., 2000; WMO, 2001). Irrigation is of course since long part of this range (e.g. Lomas & Levin, 1979). However, where such knowledge is operational at all in agrometeorological services, it is mainly for monocropping (e.g. Stigter, 1999, 2006b), perhaps for sequential cropping (e.g. Brown, 2003), but it remains marginal for mixed (inter)cropping and relay (inter)cropping (Stigter & Baldy, 1993), with the exception of the long recognized but insufficient exploited protection functions of trees in agroforestry applications (e.g. Stigter, 1988). This brings the two necessary changes we formulated above together. To sole cropping work to which most response farming advisories were dedicated, if any, multiple cropping agrometeorology services have to be added by the extension intermediaries and the product intermediaries distinguished. Such products need to focus on the preparedness earlier formulated and the process as a whole needs local, public and international funding.

Resilience

Long experience of uncertainty about weather patterns has induced resilient farmers in rainfed subsistence economies to develop complex cultigen repertoires and cultivar mixtures to ensure yields under all conditions. Such practice necessarily yields less than monocropping productive races under good conditions but yields better under the frequently occurring adverse conditions (for Africa, Blench & Marriage, 1998). Replacing multiple crops with monocropping may raise demand for external inputs and increase pressure on the soil. Suitable socio-economic and policy environments to maintain and improve soil fertility may be lacking (UKDFID, 2002).

An important issue in this context is the observation of Blench (1999) that rainfall patchiness (dry spells as a serious short term drought pattern) and rainfall intensity are more important weather/climate forecast information to most farmers than the usually available forecasts, but that they are hardly available as such.

After decades of monocropping using traditional slash and burn methods, a growing interest in intercropping and crop sequencing to overcome drought in Asia and the Pacific region has emerged (FAO, 2001a) and Box 1 holds an example for Latin America. In this context important factors of intercropping may be protection against extreme temperatures and surface soil drying by shading and mulching and against drop impact and leaching by rainfall interception and mulching (Box 1). Quantification of intercropping systems has a role to play in understanding such factors better for problem analyses and the design of improved solutions (Box 1). The same applies to the other (than dry spells) relatively short-term extreme meteorological events in agricultural production such as floods and tropical storms, tornadoes & strong winds (Rathore & Stigter, 2007). Due to the meagre existing multiple cropping literature related to floods, collected by Stigter et al. (2003), green belts are known to reduce the impact of flooding. Beneficial vegetation in flood-hazard areas and/or upstream is preserved or improved by reforestation or by erosion and flood preventing the growth of grasses and trees/bushes on hill slopes and terrace raisers.

Multiple cropping literature on protection from strong winds and their effects is somewhat more abundant and has mainly to do with microclimate manipulation using forestry and non forest trees. An example of risks from wind damage provoked by changing multiple cropping food gardens into monocropping on Pacific islands is discussed in FAO (2001b). Review literature, including scientific aspects, is in Onyewotu et al. (2004) and Rathore & Stigter (2007), while livelihood aspects may be found in Onyewotu et al. (2003). Such livelihood literature is again rare. Overall there has been little progress in reducing risk levels (Maunder & Wiggins, 2007). This includes climatic risks in agriculture from extreme events in Africa (Stigter, 2006a) and even in India, with the exception of choices of more suitable varieties and plant population management (Sivakumar et al., 2005). In this same ODI series many facets of this general conclusion on risks are explained in detail as to pro-poor agricultural extension (Farrington et al., 2002), low external input agriculture (Tripp, 2006), poverty reduction strategies (Cabral, 2006), pro-poor agricultural policies (Dorward et al., 2004), decentralized natural resources management (Baumann & Farrington, 2003), agricultural technology (Tripp, 2003) and poverty reduction, equity and climate change (Richards, 2003). The last subject Stigter (2006b) and Lemos & Dilling (2007) dealt with more recently.

Agrometeorological services are not the only services necessary (see also for example Cadish et al., 2004). But they should belong to a new services climate. Presently, in economically progressing giant countries like China, India, Brazil, for many rural areas there are insufficient infrastructure, education, investment, self-administration and other general public and private services as a socio-economic environment suitable to quickly improve absorption of more and better weather services (Stigter, 2006d). In China there is the call for a New Countryside amidst more and more openly reported rural protest (e.g. Johnson, 2004). In India there is incessant rural turmoil in many areas and the successive governments fail to deliver because like in China and Brazil, geography continues to affect Indian regional development in countless subtle ways (Sachs, 2005). This brings us to the third necessary change we formulate for agrometeorology in poorer parts of agriculture in developing countries. Agrometeorological services should be developed in such a way as to increase the resilience of farmers in line with further and wider developments to be stimulated in rural areas. The most important and most insecure factors, however, will have to do with the socio-political allies to be supported to create - and keep everywhere - on a large scale the enabling environment.

Received January 07, 2008

Accepted June 13, 2008

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Publication Dates

  • Publication in this collection
    22 Jan 2009
  • Date of issue
    Dec 2008

History

  • Accepted
    13 June 2008
  • Received
    07 Jan 2008
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