African youth go digital to keep climate-smart farming alive

By Mantoe Phakathi in Bonn | Published on 13/11/2017 | 3:34 PM |

Mobile applications and online forums help young Africans make a living from farming amid changing weather, delegates hear on the sidelines of climate talks in Bonn

African campaigners are promoting digital tools to keep young people involved in farming and prevent migration, delegates heard on the sidelines of climate talks in Bonn, Germany.

Youth unemployment averages 10.8% across sub-Saharan Africa, while nearly seven out of 10 young people earn less than $3.10 a day. Climate change impacts like drought and flooding are making it harder for farmers to get by, with large numbers making a risky journey to seek better opportunities in Europe.

In response to this challenge, the Climate Smart Agriculture Youth Network (CSAYN) is bringing young people together through digital and conventional means to share knowledge about climate-smart agriculture.

According to Amanda Namayi from CSAYN Kenya, the internet has helped the youth form alliances across 28 countries to promote sustainable farming. “This initiative started in Africa but it is now spreading to other parts of the world,” she said.

CSAYN is promoting activities associated with farming such as marketing, accounting and manufacturing to help the youth realise that agriculture can also be done by those with university qualifications.

“The youth is more engaged in social media and they’re into technology, which are the tools they’re using to get involved in farming,” said Catherine Mwangi, a researcher from Kenya.

That includes creating mobile applications to inform farmers about weather patterns and help them make decisions on what to plant and when.

Young people are also using online forums to share experiences and educate one another, Mwangi said. “We need to rethink the way we engage the youth in farming… The online forums have given us an insight into what challenges the youth faces and the solutions.”

Analysis: For Africans, America’s pledge is about more than pollution

The other problem that African youth in agriculture face is a lack of land rights. This, according to the African Union Commission (AUC) advisor in climate change and agriculture, Ayalneh Bogale, is caused by the complexity of land tenure systems in African countries.

“The AUC is helping African governments to come up with policies to make land more accessible to those who want to use it for farming,” he said.

He also encouraged the youth to engage in rehabilitating damaged land, which may be eligible for climate finance.

Climate Home News’ reporting at Cop23 is supported in part by the European Climate Foundation.

Article Disclaimer: This article originally appeared on Climate Home News and was retrieved on 01/17/2018 and republished here for information and educational purposes only. The views and contents of the article remain those of the authors. We will not be held accountable for the reliability and accuracy of the materials. If you need additional information on the published contents and materials, please contact the original authors and publisher. Please cite the authors, original source, and INDESEEM INCORPORATED accordingly. If you have any question or concern, please send us an email at

Is digital agriculture the key to revolutionize future farming in Africa?

By Emebet Tita and Dawit Solomon (CCAFS)|Dec 8, 2017|Low Emissions Development

Stakeholders discuss opportunities and challenges of digital agriculture in Africa.

Digital technology has significantly transformed all sectors of economic development. It has changed our way of living to the extent that it is difficult to imagine life without it. In developed countries, digital technologies and analytics are already transforming agriculture, making farm operations more insight-driven and efficient. However, agricultural productivity in developing countries, especially on the African continent, remains very low and the application of digital technologies still very limited.

Source: Digital Agriculture: Pathway to Prosperity | ICRISAT

In October 2017, the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security in East Africa (CCAFS EA) in collaboration with the University of Copenhagen (UCPH), the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) Ethiopia, and Ethiopian Agricultural Research Center’s (EIAR) Climate and Geospatial Research Program brought together stakeholders from the private sector, government organizations and universities in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to explore digital agriculture and its potential to transform farming on the continent.

Stakeholders discussed the opportunities that digital agriculture presents and the existing challenges on the ground that need to be taken into consideration in order to successfully embrace and implement digital agriculture in Africa.

In his opening remarks, Dr. Dawit Solomon (CCAFS’s East Africa Regional Program Leader) highlighted that precision agriculture, internet-of-things, unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology, crop and soil sensing, weed sensing, disease sensing, new breeding technologies, biologicals, biochips, and new breeding technologies are all innovations that once seemed farfetched but are now becoming an accessible and affordable reality, already in use in some corners of our world.  So how can African countries adopt and deploy these technologies? Can Africa learn from the developed world? Or as Dr. Campbell, Director of CCAFS, puts it, “can Africa leapfrog into a new world in agriculture similar to mobile banking?”

Dr. Svend Christensen, Professor, and Head of Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, emphasized that at the center of it all is data, and how we obtain and use it.

However, most participants highlighted, gathering data, standardizing the collection process and data storage are major challenges. Data collection is scattered and stored in different data silos, in different formats, by different organizations. It is difficult to determine how such data can be integrated and used to make reliable comparisons. Thus, it is evident that collaboration between different stakeholders involved in agriculture is key to obtain and use data efficiently, as well as to reduce the cost of obtaining data.

Dr. Mandefro Nigussie, Senior Advisor with Digital Green, also added the starting point should be establishing a clear understanding of the existing framework of digital agriculture in the different countries, which include the policies, data infrastructure and the stakeholders in play. This can serve as a basis to identify the gaps and leveraging points, in order to commission initiatives that can drive targeted solutions.

Finally, participants also noted that while the potential for digital agriculture in Africa is real, any successful solution should involve the farmer in the design process, focus on the farmer’s real-world needs and devise a two-way flow of information to and from the farmer. It is also necessary that governments create and implement policies conducive to the changing needs of the digital age we live in.

On the following day, selected participants attended the Global Green Growth Week Public-Private Sector roundtable discussion on Transforming African Agriculture organized by CCAFS in collaboration with the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) and the Green Climate Fund (GCF). As a result of the discussions, CCAFS East Africa is now leading the formation of a Public Private Partnership project that is aimed at tackling the challenges related to agriculture data infrastructure. The project is expected to create a digital platform and application, expected to reach over 50,000 smallholder farmers, which will serve as a tool to gather data, communicate and receive intelligence specific to climate, agro-metrology, and market information.

Following the meeting, CCAFS, UCPH, CIMMYT and the EIAR organized site visits for selected participants to the wheat research site at Kulumsa Agricultural Research Centre (KARC) and the Eteya-Huruta wheat belt in Oromia region located over 175 km outside Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

At KARC, participants observed the wheat nursery, test fields, and pilot farmers’ fields. KARC is working on breeding high yield, stem and yellow rust resistant wheat varieties to be distributed to farmers. Farmers are also trained on farm management good practices and provided with mechanization tools for rent.

Test fields from Eteya-Huruta wheat belt in Ethiopia’s Oromia region. Photo: Dawit Solomon (CCAFS)

Driving back to Addis Ababa, away from the fields, much like the one pictured above, one cannot help but imagine that soon the farmer on the field will be using his mobile phone to switch on and off a harvester, a drone is flying over-head conducting soil and field analysis and a satellite somewhere in space is connected to both, storing and exchanging the data in a cloud database, and connecting the different users in the ecosystem.


Article Disclaimer: This article was published by the CGIAR-CCAFS and retrieved on 12/20/2017 and posted here for information and educational purposes only. The views and contents of the article remain those of the authors. We will not be held accountable for the reliability and accuracy of the materials. If you need additional information on the published contents and materials, please contact the original authors and publisher. Please cite the authors, original source, and INDESEEM accordingly.




Moving closer to achieving climate-smart future for Southeast Asia

Written by Nguyen Thu Hang (Viet Nam News) on Dec 6, 2017

Fostering learning and sharing knowledge and experiences across Climate-Smart Villages and projects in Southeast Asia.

Based on the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS)’ Southeast Asia’s vision, by 2025, the Southeast Asian region has achieved a stable food supply, and communities, especially those in the most vulnerable areas, have already improved their climate change resilience through the adoption of climate-smart technologies and practices.

By this time, institutional, public, and private sector’s capacities to implement measures to cope with climate change are already strong, and climate change adaptation and mitigation measures are fully integrated into both regional and national development plans. These goals guided the implementation of its flagship projects (FP) under the program.


On its third annual meeting, CCAFS SEA looked at the four flagship projects’ progress in terms of achieving the goals abovementioned since the second phase of the program started. The annual meeting was held on the 20th of November in Hanoi, Vietnam.

The beginnings of CCAFS

The regional agenda and research portfolio of CCAFS SEA are put into four flagships (FPs), FP1 – priorities, and policies for climate-smart agriculture, FP2-climate-smart technologies, and practices, FP3–low emission development ad FP4–climate services and safety nets.

The Climate-Smart Village (CSV) project serves as the convergence point of the flagship projects. These are implemented to improve farming communities’ resilience to challenges brought about by climate change which are expected to be worsened by the region’s rapid economic growth.

At present, the projects of CCAFS SEA are mostly located in three countries of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia because they are among the most vulnerable countries to climate change in the region. However, there are also other projects implemented in the Philippines and Indonesia.

CCAFS flagship leaders Dr. Phil Thornton and Dr. Andy Jarvis, together with CCAFS SEA regional program leader Dr. Leocadio Sebastian, facilitated a special session on the future projects’ focus. Photo by Duong Minh Tuan/ICRAF

CSV achievements

During the review conducted during the event, participants discussed the successes and challenges faced by the flagship projects and looked at how much of the desired outputs and outcomes have already been achieved. The key emerging outcomes from CSV sites in Vietnam, Philippines, and Laos, have also been highlighted in the workshop.

For instance, in the first stage of the CSV project in Guinayangan Village in the Philippines’ Quezon Province, the implementers had successfully engaged with local governments. In addition, the incorporation of climate-smart agriculture into the local government’s agriculture extension services is expected to have benefitted from 5,000 farmers in Guinayangan Village. Guinayangan is also recognized as a learning site that influenced the implementation and rolls out of the Philippines’ Adaptation and Mitigation Initiative in Agriculture (AMIA) program.

As for the project of CSVs in the Mekong Basin, initial outcomes include eight climate-smart agriculture practices and technologies have been implemented with the engagement of 100 local households. For example, in Vietnam’s Ky Son Commune, implementers have successfully coordinated with local governments, same with Guinyangan. They have also helped 2,000 farmers in achieving stable incomes and two neighboring villages in selecting 3 CSAs as priorities for scale-out: stress-tolerant rice varieties, dry season water storage, and pest smart practices for adoption during the first year of the project’s second phase.

Meanwhile, Rohal Suong CSV in Cambodia is now poised to be selected as a demonstration site under IFAD-funded ASPIRE project (worth about USD 50 million).

A special poster session was held to showcase the significant outputs and emerging outcomes of the various CCAFS SEA’s regional projects. Photo by Duong Minh Tuan/ICRAF

Points for improvement

Despite the successes of CCAFS SEA in the first phase and the first year of its second phase, several challenges are still needed to be addressed in the remaining years in the second phase.

The biggest concern to be addressed now pertains to the mobilization of funding for the projects because the total budget left is not enough to run all the projects while most of them will end next year.

Aside from this, Dr. Andy Jarvis, one of the Flagship Leader of CCAFS stated that there is a need to re-design the projects to make it fit with the situation. To address this concern, Dr. Godefroy Grosjean, an expert from the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), suggested three ways they can improve mobilization of financial resources for the projects in the region.

According to him, the first step that CCAFS should do is to recruit a joint position with the Food and Agriculture Organization for a climate finance expert. Second, it is advised to develop new agenda on climate finance, including fiscal reform, evaluation of business models, and carbon pricing. The third step is taking new methodology such as behavioral economics, he said.

Dr. Leocadio Sebastian, the Regional Program Leader at CCAFS SEA, also pointed out the gaps between discussions and the reality in the field where the projects were implemented. He called for all stakeholders to suggest solutions in order to cope with these challenges so that the projects would be smoothly run in the coming years.

Nguyen Thu Hang is a reporter for the Viet Nam News.

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Better farmer access to machinery eases crop residue burning in India

“Super SMS” fitted combine harvester and “Happy Seeder” can be used for simultaneously harvesting rice and seeding wheat. Photo: H.S. Sidhu/CIMMYT

November 14, 2017

EL BATAN, Mexico (CIMMYT) — In conjunction with recent state regulations outlawing the use of fire to destroy field crop waste in northwest India, some farmers are benefitting from technological innovations that can help prevent damaging smog levels in the capital Delhi and other areas, according to scientists.

Currently, the majority of farmers in northwest India burn leftover vegetation residue to prepare fields for planting in cyclical rice-wheat crop rotations, leading to negative consequences for soil quality, the environment, animal and human health. Rice-wheat crop rotations make up 84 percent of burned crops, a key source of atmospheric pollution.

“Farmers need access to appropriate machinery and training to implement change to discourage burning,” said M.L. Jat, a systems agronomist who works in New Delhi with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT). “Using crop residue in a sustainable and eco-friendly manner could benefit all stakeholders.”

Many farmers keep costs low by burning residue on the farm, rather than paying for its removal for other uses, which could include animal feed, biofuel,  incorporating it into the soil or retaining it in the field as mulch, according to a research paper titled “Burning issues of paddy residue management in northwest fields of India.” Fire is also used to eliminate weeds, pests, disease and remaining field stubble after harvest.

Ash left on the fields after residue burning increases the availability of some nutrients, while depleting others and negatively affecting soil health in the long term. During burning, soil temperature increases, bacteria and fungi are killed off, regenerating in a matter of days. Residue burning can damage plants and trees on field edges with negative implications for the overall ecosystem.

Residues can be used as a renewable energy source to improve air, soil quality, climate change and reduce global warming, provided these are economically viable options for farmers. Incentives could also help encourage farmers to leave residues on their fields for use as fertilizer.

If residue is mulched into the soil, nutrient levels improve and carbon sequestration capacity increases, lowering the release of greenhouse gases into the environment. Additionally, residue retention reduces evaporation and increases soil moisture by as much as 10 percent during the wheat-growing season.

Farmers can benefit from the Happy Seeder, a machine that can plant wheat seed directly into the soil by boring through crop residue. The Straw Management System (SMS) machine spreads straw residue thinly on the soil surface allowing seeding.

“Residues are also of great economic value as livestock feed, fuel and industrial raw materials, but of the total rice residues produced in northwestern India, only around 15 percent can potentially be used for these purposes and the rest must be managed with in-situ (on site) management technologies,” said Jat, who conducted the research in collaboration with the CGIAR research programs on maize (CRP Maize), wheat(CRP Wheat) and climate change, agriculture and food security (CCAFS).

“Although farmers are aware of the adverse affects of crop burning, they rely on it due to the lack of economically viable and acceptable machinery and alternatives to dispose of residue.”

However, deploying advanced technology, including the concurrent use of straw management systems, fitted combine harvesters and Happy Seeders for direct drilling is a viable solution to eliminate burning, he added.

With these advancements and aggressive campaigns, within a period of a couple of months in Punjab state alone, over 1,000 combine owners have launched a “Super SMS.”

Additionally, nearly 2,000 happy seeders are being manufactured, which will lead to large-scale adoption of conservation agriculture techniques in the upcoming wheat season, Jat said.

Article Disclaimer: This article was published by the CIMMYT and retrieved on 11/24/2017 and posted here for information and educational purposes only. The views and contents of the article remain those of the authors. We will not be held accountable for the reliability and accuracy of the materials. If you need additional information on the published contents and materials, please contact the original authors and publisher. Please cite the authors, original source, and INDESEEM accordingly.


Climate insurance for farmers: a shield that boosts innovation

Index insurance is one of the top 10 innovations for climate-proof farming. Photo: P. Lowe/ CIMMYT

November 7, 2017

New insurance products geared towards smallholder farmers can help them recover their losses, and even encourage investment in climate-resilient innovations.

What stands between a smallholder farmer and a bag of climate-adapted seeds? In many cases, it’s the hesitation to take a risk. Farmers may want to use improved varieties, invest in new tools, or diversify what they grow, but they need reassurance that their investments and hard work will not be squandered.

Climate change already threatens crops and livestock; one unfortunately-timed dry spell or flash flood can mean losing everything. Today, innovative insurance products are tipping the balance in farmers’ favor. That’s why insurance is featured as one of 10 innovations for climate action in agriculturein a new report released ahead of next week’s UN Climate Talks. These innovations are drawn from decades of agricultural research for development by CGIAR and its partners and showcase an array of integrated solutions that can transform the food system.

Index insurance is making a difference to farmers at the frontlines of climate change. It is an essential building block for adapting our global food system and helping farmers thrive in a changing climate. Taken together with other innovations like stress-tolerant crop varietiesclimate-informed advisories for farmers, and creative business and financial models, index insurance shows tremendous promise.

The concept is simple. To start with, farmers who are covered can recoup their losses if (for example) rainfall or average yield falls above or below a pre-specified threshold or ‘index’. This is a leap forward compared to the costly and slow process of manually verifying the damage and loss in each farmer’s field. In India, scientists from the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research(ICAR), have worked out the water level thresholds that could spell disaster for rice farmers if exceeded. Combining 35 years of observed rainfall and other data, with high-resolution satellite images of actual flooding, scientists and insurers can accurately gauge the extent of flooding and crop loss to quickly determine who gets payouts.

The core feature of index insurance is to offer a lifeline to farmers, so they can shield themselves from the very worst effects of climate change. But that’s not all. Together with my team, we’re investigating how insurance can help farmers adopt new and improved varieties. Scientists are very good at developing technologies but farmers are not always willing to make the leap. This is one of the most important challenges that we grapple with. What we’ve found has amazed us: buying insurance can help farmers overcome uncertainty and give them the confidence to invest in new innovations and approaches. This is critical for climate change adaptation. We’re also finding that creditors are more willing to lend to insured farmers and that insurance can stimulate entrepreneurship and innovation. Ultimately, insurance can help break poverty traps, by encouraging a transformation in farming.

Insurers at the cutting edge are making it easy for farmers to get coverage. In Kenya, insurance is being bundled into bags of maize seeds, in a scheme led by ACRE Africa. Farmers pay a small premium when buying the seeds and each bag contains a scratch card with a code, which farmers text to ACRE at the time of planting. This initiates coverage against drought for the next 21 days; participating farms are monitored using satellite imagery. If there are enough days without rain, a farmer gets paid instantly via their mobile phone.

ACRE makes it easy for Kenyan farmers to get insurance. Source

Farmers everywhere are business people who seek to increase yields and profits while minimizing risk and losses. As such, insurance has widespread appeal. We’ve seen successful initiatives grow rapidly in India, China, Zambia, Kenya and Mexico, which points to significant potential in other countries and contexts. The farmers most likely to benefit from index insurance are emergent and commercial farmers, as they are more likely than subsistence smallholder farmers to purchase insurance on a continual basis.

It’s time for more investment in index insurance and other innovations that can help farmers adapt to climate change. Countries have overwhelmingly prioritized climate actions in the agriculture sector, and sustained support is now needed to help them meet the goals set out in the Paris Climate Agreement.

Jon Hellin leads the project on weather index-based agricultural insurance as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS). This work is done in collaboration with the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI) at Columbia University, and the CGIAR Research Programs on MAIZE and WHEAT.

Article Disclaimer: This article was published by CIMMYT and retrieved on 11/10/2017 and posted here for information and educational purposes only. The views and contents of the article remain those of the original authors and publisher. We will not be held accountable for the reliability, accuracy, and validity of the published materials. If you need additional information about the contents and materials of the article, please contact the original authors and publisher. INDESEEM is an emerging nonprofit, research and development organization which seeks to enhance development partnerships in developing countries to achieve the sustainable development goals by 2030 and beyond. Please cite article accordingly. Thank You.


Climate services for smarter farming – what’s it all about?

Dr. Julian Ramirez-Villegas, a Climate Impacts Scientist, at CIAT and the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS). Photo by: Neil Palmer / CIAT

 | Oct 5, 2017


Over the last few years, CIAT, CCAFS and their partners* have been doing groundbreaking work to provide climate information to help farmers make smarter decisions. Having achieved success in Colombia and Honduras, now the team wants to take climate services to the rest of the world. Dr. Julian Ramirez-Villegas, a Climate Impacts Scientist, talked to us in-depth about what makes this a revolutionary approach that can enable farmers to thrive in a changing climate.

What is a climate service?

A climate service is basically the act of providing specific pieces of information about the climate in a systematic and sustained way to allow a user to make a decision. Climate affects crop productivity quite significantly. Globally, it’s been estimated that maybe a third of global crop production depends on climate. So you need to be able to understand what the climate effects are and be able to manage your crops.

So if you’re a farmer, accurate and reliable climate information is really important — it can help you make decisions about what crop to grow, which variety of that crop to plant, and when best to plant it.

Sustainably providing this kind of information in the right formats and means to farmers, extension agents, or other people that are helping farmers make decisions — that’s what constitutes a climate service.

Can you give a real-world example?

In parts of Casanare and Meta — departments in Colombia — where farmers grow rice or maize, there’s a single growing season, from around May to September. But during that season, you can have pretty unstable rainfall: It can rain a lot for a few days, but then it can stay dry for a few days. This uncertainty hinders crop productivity because it affects the growth of the crop significantly.

Also, the areas can experience relatively long dry spells, so if you’re a farmer, the ideal situation is to be really sure that there’s going to be rain for the few days after planting. If there isn’t, then the seed that you put in the soil won’t germinate, and all the seed that you purchased will go to waste.

So a valuable climate service in that particular case would involve providing reliable information about the most reliable time to plant.

How do you generate that information?

We’re used to forecasts on television giving us weather information for the next few days, and these help us take decisions in our daily lives. But farmers need reliable information over the course of months — seasonal climate forecasts as well as weather forecasts. Seasonal conditions are harder to predict. The new information technology tools and approaches enable us to generate reliable climatic predictions that farmers can trust.

Typically, we try to answer questions like: Are the next few months going to be wetter or dryer than normal? Or are they going to be around normal? And for that information, part of the process involves looking at weather records to try to construct possible seasonal predictions. We feed this information into crop models and use big data analytics, which allow us to calculate how a particular crop behaves under certain climatic conditions. The model will show us the likelihood of a crop performing well or poorly if planted at a particular time, or will tell us which varieties may perform best under the expected conditions. The models can be quite precise: They can tell you that if you plant your crop between the 15th and the 20th of May, for example, then you’re very likely to achieve the highest productivity.

How do the models account for the fact that climate change is also happening? Doesn’t it mean that the future won’t be like the past?

In our mathematical models, we include the long-term trend. However, in a general sense, we should always be reminded that “all models are wrong, but some are useful.” In some instances, when climate change leads to more extreme climatic conditions that have not been experienced in the past, the type of statistical models that we are using may not work well. But this is why it is very important to continuously and closely monitor local climatic conditions. This will allow us to identify where and when extreme conditions may be increasing, and make our models “learn” from these events, too.

Where do you get the historical climate information? Can you download it online or do you have to request it from the weather agency?

Many of the weather agencies we interact with are working toward having online systems where you can download directly, or make a request online. At the moment, we request it, and they’re happy to share it. Colombia has a policy for open meteorological data, which makes our work very effective and efficient there. We also recognize the hard work that IDEAM, the Colombian meteorological agency, puts into data collection, curation, and sharing.

We can typically get 15-30 years of climate information for a given location. In some cases, we can get up to 40 years. It depends on how long the meteorological agency has been recording the climate.

What kinds of recommendations do you provide to farmers?

For rice and maize, which are the two crops that we work on most in Colombia, the analysis tells you basically three things: firstly, whether a farmer in a particular locality should plant or not plant — because there might be a risk of crop failure; secondly, if the farmer should plant, then when they should do it; and thirdly, which crop variety they should plant, based on the likely seasonal climate.

There’s no standard set of recommendations. They are tailored depending on the climate predictions for that season, and on the local conditions and knowledge of technicians and farmers. Agronomy in a way is a kind of recipe, but you need to ensure you get the ingredients right for each situation.

How do you make sure this information gets to farmers?

We have a series of different delivery mechanisms, and when I say “we,” it’s actually not only CIAT, but also our partners in these countries.

We have been creating new tools and knowledge, but at the same time, we have been building the capacity of farmers’ organizations, to empower them and help them embrace this knowledge. We’re also working with teams of people who not only run models, but who also look at the climate conditions, and to interpret the outputs of models and convert that into advice for farmers.

We have also set up and been working through platforms called technical agroclimatic committees. These are roundtables of people from different institutions, including those within the meteorological service and different farmers’ organizations for different crops, so you have climate experts and farmers sitting together. The committees are able to issue the forecast as a joint output, along with recommendations for farmers in a given region. That comes typically in the form of a bulletin. Because these agroclimatic committees are local, they provide very specific information, and as such, they have been quite effective: Whoever comes to the meeting leaves with a clear set of recommendations and a clear idea of what might be coming weather-wise in the next few months. They then are able to share these with the farmers they work with.

What are some crucial elements to providing successful climate services?

First, providing a climate service is a two-way communication process with users. You need to talk to the users of the service, and you need to make sure that the information is tailored to the needs of those users.

Building the capacity of farmers organizations was crucial to our work in Colombia. The project we have there provided them with funding, which allowed them to hire people to develop tools with us. However, now they are themselves funding their teams, thus preserving the analytical capacity in-house, and being less dependent on external funding. Of course, external funding always helps to explore new topics and expand work, but the core capacity is now there.

With experts from IDEAM, farmer organizations, and other institutions, we also developed an online platform that automatically provides forecasts. With the help of farmers and technicians, we were able to make this much more tailored to users. It was a lot of work, but it increased the sense that they belong to the process. It empowered them and helped make the tool much more locally relevant and useful.

So you can see that providing climate services is the work of many people. Even inside CIAT, there are more than 30 people working on it. And outside CIAT, there are farmers’ organizations, secretaries or ministries of agriculture, meteorological service providers, and climate experts from the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI) at Columbia University. It’s in no small part thanks to IRI that we and our partners know what climate prediction tools exist and how to use them.

This work dates back a number of years, and it’s had many, many players without whom we could not have not pursued this.

So what makes climate services a unique proposition to farmers and for CIAT?

Before we started our first project in Colombia, under an agreement with the Ministry of Agriculture, a lot of people were aware of the importance of the climate but didn’t know what to do about it. After going to the field, we realized that Colombian farmers were planting based on what happened last year. So if I planted on the first of May last year and I got a good crop, then I’ll do the same this year. With the amount of climate variability that we have here in Colombia, particularly rainfall, that’s a recipe for disaster. You cannot expect that climate conditions are going to be exactly the same from one year to the other: At the extreme, you might have a La Niña cycle this year, so it’s very wet, and an El Niño cycle next year, meaning it’s hotter and drier. It just wouldn’t make sense to apply exactly the same strategy across time. There was clearly a gap for a service that would systematically provide information about what to do when certain climate conditions are coming.

CIAT, of course, has been working on climate change for a long time, and leads the CGIAR Research Program of Climate Change, Agriculture, and Food Security (CCAFS). We’re collaborating with, for example, IRI at Columbia University, to be able to build tools that can connect what climate scientists are producing to insights that are relevant to farmers. We’re also able to use our network of partners to reach farmers. And this is where we see our role and comparative advantage: in building that bridge to connect hardcore climate scientists with farmers in the field.

What are the challenges to providing climate services? How do you address them?

Right now, we’re working with farmers’ organizations, who are empowered with the tools; they provide information to thousands of farmers. But there are many farmers that don’t belong to any farmer organization. They are typically small-scale farmers who are difficult to reach by typical extension services or communication channels. Also, particularly in Latin America, there are many regions that don’t have government-sponsored extension services at all. That makes it more difficult to reach these farmers with climate information. Plus, they’re often the most vulnerable farmers.

In these cases, other communication channels should be used. For example, radio would be much more effective because it is particularly good at reaching those in remote areas. But then it’s not only about the mechanism; it’s also about what you are communicating. In many localities that we’ve worked in, people would say, “Yeah on the radio I get the forecast, I get the climate predictions, but if I live in the Cauca Valley and the forecast is for the Andean region, how is that going to be useful for me?” We need to make the forecasts locally relevant.

Radio is just one example. Text messages, or even TV, could also work. There’s one very interesting example in Rwanda. There, CIAT is in the process of establishing a system whereby you have a TV screen located in district agricultural offices, which constantly provides climate predictions that are tailored to agriculture in that locality. I thought that was quite a neat idea.

Another key challenge is improving the accuracy of the prediction models. You say, “OK, you’re making climate predictions, so you’re telling me what might happen in the next six months. Is that really accurate?” The analysis that we’ve done suggests that the predictions are accurate about 80 percent of the time. This is actually a really high success rate, but we need to find ways of making the predictions yet more accurate, if we want to reduce the climate risks associated with farming to a minimum.

Do you think 100 percent accuracy is possible?

No natural phenomenon is 100 percent predictable. But we can reach greater levels of accuracy with better models. This would require significant investment in research on climate prediction.

Not only that; in some cases, we’ve realized there’s also an issue of data quality. So in regions where data quality is poor or where you have very few weather stations, the climate is more challenging to predict.

What’s next for CIAT’s climate service work?

Some of the prediction methods and mathematical models that we’re using are of a lot of interest to CIAT and partners in Africa and in Asia. So we really want to improve knowledge exchange across regions. To do this, we need to ensure that everyone knows there is a climate service framework and that we’re able to fit projects into that framework. Next, we want to take full advantage of the tools that we have or that we’re developing, to reduce duplication and enhance integration.

We see of course the area of climate services growing as we go into the future. Right now, we’re working with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to create a climate service suitability map. This map would take into account factors such as level of climate predictability, the difference between potential and actual yields in different regions, and the levels of food insecurity and malnutrition. It would show hot spots, where if you invest in climate services, you might be very effective at getting development outcomes. Once we get this work done, it should help USAID reorient its investment in its different priority countries.

So we expect a lot of growth, and I think so far we’re getting a lot of traction.

Would you say climate services is like the missing recipe to farming success?

Yes, though that’s not to say that it all works perfectly, but we’ve made enormous progress, and right now, we estimate that 300,000 farmers are receiving climate information as a result of our work. It’s a great start, but there’s a lot more to do.

CIAT wants to make this work truly global. We’ve proven that it works, that farmer organizations and farmers like and embrace it, and that it can save them money and boost productivity. Imagine if we could implement similar systems in sub-Saharan Africa or South East Asia — there are potentially millions and millions that could benefit.

* CIAT’s partners in providing climate services include the Colombian National Federation of Rice Growers (FEDEARROZ), Colombian Association for Fruits and Vegetables (ASOHOFRUCOL), the National Federation of Cereal and Grain Legume Growers (FENALCE), the National Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology, and Environmental Studies (IDEAM), National Directorate of Science and Technology, Honduras (DICTA),  Agronet, Local Technical Agro-climatic Committees (LTACs), the Permanent Committee for Contingencies (COPECO), and the Secretariat of Agriculture and Livestock (SAG). Funders include the Colombian Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MADR), the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), the Climate Services for Resilience Development (CSRD) Program of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and The Nature Conservancy (TNC).

Article Disclaimer: This article was published by CIAT and retrieved on 10/5/2017 and reposted here for information and educational purposes only. The views and contents of the article remain those of the original authors and publisher. We will not be held accountable for the reliability, accuracy, and validity of the published materials. If you need additional information about the contents and materials of the article, please contact the original authors and publisher. INDESEEM is an emerging nonprofit, research and development organization which seeks to enhance development partnerships in developing countries to achieve the sustainable development goals by 2030 and beyond. Please cite article accordingly. Thank You.



Agricultural scientists urge new global crop alliance to secure future food supply

Farmer Gashu Lema’s son harvests improved variety “Kubsa” wheat

EL BATAN, Mexico (CIMMYT) – At a time when weather patterns are becoming less predictable and population pressures on food supply are increasing, a group of crop scientists are laying the groundwork for an international crop network to systematically tackle threats to global food security.

Research focused on specific crops achieves progressive genetic gains, but scientists need to adopt a more internationally oriented and integrated approach to leverage technology, expertise and infrastructure with greater efficiency and purpose, said Matthew Reynolds, a distinguished scientist and wheat breeder at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in an opinion piece published this week in the journal Science.

Already 795 million poor people do not get enough food to eat, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). By 2030, the number of people living in poverty could increase between 35 and 122 million in large measure because of the impact of climate change on the agricultural sector, the FAO reports.

“We understand how to make crops more resilient to heat and drought, but we’re at a point where we need to accelerate our work.” said Reynolds, backed by a team of co-authors from the scientific community. “Since these problems are transnational in nature, a more global network could accelerate our efforts while increasing efficiency and helping to avoid duplication.”

Scientists plan to deploy the new Global Crop Improvement Network (GCIN) to take comparative approaches across all major crops and environments to enhance such traits as root access to water using remote sensing, which often requires costly mobile, airborne or satellite technology.

Through successful wheat-specific collaboration, since the early 1960s, the International Wheat Improvement Network (IWIN), part of the CGIAR-affiliated group of agricultural researchers, has made economically efficient and environmentally sound impacts in crop improvement, which serve as a template for the projected success of GCIN.

Scientists within IWIN undertake breeding efforts aimed at 12 different wheat mega-environments, testing new wheat genotypes at 700 field sites in more than 90 countries. Each year they produce some 1,000 high-yielding, disease-resistant wheat lines, which are delivered as international public goods.

A recent study on wheat improvement shows that CGIAR varieties cover about half of the world’s wheat growing area, through IWIN, delivering an economic punch of from $2.2 billion to more than $3 billion a year for resource-poor farmers and consumers.

“The benefit cost ratio of the investment is 100 to 1, even without taking into account the avoided cost of disease pandemics and the land saved from cultivation due to increased yields; economic analysis indicate at least 20 million hectares of natural ecosystem have been spared the plough,” Reynolds said.

“High transaction costs and instability of crop funding have hamstrung urgently needed research,” he added. “This is senseless in light of the extraordinary return on investment to IWIN which could be transferred to GCIN.”

Through a crop-wide collaboration, international scientists can boost benefits from practical work with national agricultural research systems, improving the value of “in kind contributions,” he said.

Aims include standardizing data and phenotyping techniques to best practises, ensuring that information can be shared and understood worldwide.

This approach will also encourage upstream researchers to venture from working exclusively in controlled facilities to realistic field environments, bringing cutting edge technologies with them, Reynolds said.

Data sharing could lead to more accurate descriptions of environments and experimental treatments. Currently, data is often only available selectively and a network would promote it through open access programs.

The benefits of integrated research through the CGIAR group of agricultural researchers and the FAO are well established, but the network under discussion could enhance and improve information sharing transnationally.

Experimental fields – or field laboratories – which are essential for translating scientific breakthroughs to improved crop yields, could at times benefit from more strategic relocation. Often they are in certain areas due to historical, financial or political reasons, not because of current practical needs, Reynolds explained.

Climate change is expected to lead to overall warmer temperatures and increase the intensity of droughts, floods and storms, negatively affecting food security and livelihoods. Climate modelling indicates that sea levels will rise and patterns of flooding and drought will change due to glacial melt at high altitudes.

Higher temperatures will affect crop yields and erratic rainfall could affect both yields and quality. For poor people spending most of their income on food, related price hikes could make it much more difficult to cope.

“A more globally oriented, problem-solving research effort will increase the efficiency of global investment in agriculture and help ensure food security,” Reynolds said, adding that public-private partnerships could be harnessed to drive globally coordinated research.

Article Disclaimer: This article was published by the CGIAR and retrieved on 07/28/2017 and posted here for information and educational purposes only. The views and contents of the article remain those of the authors. We will not be held accountable for the reliability and accuracy of the materials. If you need additional information on the published contents and materials, please contact the original authors and publisher. Please cite the authors, original source, and INDESEEM accordingly.