«C.J. STIGTER1, ZHENG DAWEI2, L.O.Z. ONYEWOTU3 and MEI XURONG4 TTMI/African Network & Asian PMP Liaison Ofﬁce, Wageningen University, The ...»
Stewart (1988, 1991) deﬁned response farming in a more limited way, with respect to adapting cropping to the ongoing rainy season by guidance of agronomical operations, using experiences of the past, preferably from interpretations of meteorological rainfall records with support from traditional expert knowledge where available. Given the indications for increasing variability and change of the climate in terms of rainfall, this will have to be adapted to those new conditions, limiting the period in the past over which the experience can be used (Ati et al., 2002). In agrometeorology, pilot projects with the use of on-line agrometeorological information for farmers to respond to, successfully exist already for two decades in West Africa (e.g. Traore et al., 1992; Diarra, 2001). When such changes in deﬁnitions of response farming are accepted, it is only a little step to include other parameters like temperature, a possibility earlier mentioned above in Section 3.2, due to better probabilistic seasonal forecasting techniques (Van Viet, 2001).
The situation described above also has another policies related face. Blench and Marriage (1998) have noted that in rain-fed farming areas of eastern and southern Africa, governments and development projects have encouraged high-input, highrisk strategies such as planting hybrid maize instead of sorghum and millet. This, although long experience of uncertainty about weather patterns had induced farmers to develop complex cultivar mixtures to ensure yields under all conditions. The effects of the prolonged drought of the early nineties could have been less, if the risks had been spread across a range of crops with greater tolerance of low-rainfall regimes, as that had been traditionally done. In another example, the dominance of a few seed companies combined with commercial pressure on farmers and an extremely negative attitude to “old” crops and open-pollinated varieties, as well as the replacement of many traditional livestock breeds with “modern” breeds, has massively increased small farmers’ vulnerability to climate shock events. Because the high risks under adverse conditions are more important for poor farmers than the
TRADITIONAL COPING WITH CLIMATE VARIABILITYopportunities of better years, here the right policy environment is again surfacing as a necessary condition for services towards sustainable livelihood systems (Blench and Marriage, 1998).
In an even more recent paper, Blench (1999) has noted that multi-lateral agencies are urging that climate forecasts be made available to small-scale farmers. Disaster preparedness strategies, both of governments and NGOs, have begun to take account of such forecasts, and there is considerable interest in assigning them an economic value. However, ﬁeld studies of the impact of recent forecasts in southern Africa suggest that there is a considerable gap between the information needed by smallscale farmers and that provided by the meteorological services (Blench, 1999).
This was conﬁrmed by investigating the role of intermediaries such as Agricultural Demonstrators in Botswana (Stigter, 2002b) and Provincial Agrometeorologists in Vietnam (Stigter, 2002a). Risk-aversion strategies in LEISA production systems do pose a problem for adapting forecast information. Low-income farmers are interested in a broader range of characteristics of precipitation, notably: total rainfall, patchiness of rainfall, intensity, starting date, distribution of rainfall, end of the rains and prospects for dry spells and their length (Blench, 1999; Ati et al., 2002).
The use of this information then has to be adapted to local soils and topography.
It is exactly here, where scientiﬁc quantiﬁcation/extensions and improvements of Stewart’s response farming approach would bring highly needed solutions (Stewart, 1991; Gadgil et al., 2000). There are recent attempts to deﬁne conceptual strategies for demonstration projects of this kind, demanding strategic and tactical interactions between physical, agricultural, social and economic systems, with a long list of elements (Manton, 2001). Carefully organized, but less science driven pilot projects of that kind are highly needed, in which other experience referred to in this paper could be of much use as well (Gadgil, 2001; Stigter, 2002a, b).
4. Additional Considerations for Improving LEISA Farming
The literature on water related examples of combating climate variability and related phenomena of environmental hazards hold a series of lessons also applicable more generally. The above examples show that traditional management technologies and innovations of all kinds are and still become locally available. They belong to the best strategies to cope with climate variability. Dissemination through government and NGO efforts is, however, very necessary because successes are not widespread (Stigter, 2001). Upscaling of results from pilot projects has been reported to face particular barriers and needs wide additional attention (Turton and Bottrall, 1997).
Reports that population growth and agricultural intensiﬁcation have been accompanied by improved rather than deteriorating soil and water resources (Tiffen et al., 1994) appear very conditional. Improvement of total land husbandry and wider livelihood as a whole are more important than controlling land degradation per se (Shaxson et al., 1997; Boyd and Slaymaker, 2000). The literature indicates that in places prone to frequent disaster or insecurity, simple solutions 266 C. J. STIGTER ET AL.
are bound to be more successful for services to decision making in the prevailing farming systems (Marsh, 2001). An analysis of soil and water conservation projects in Africa concluded that indigenous techniques should be a starting point to obtain success (Reij, 1993). More recent experience conﬁrms this (Stigter and Ng’ang’a, 2001). Examples from Sri Lanka illustrate the role women’s indigenous knowledge can play in conserving sustainability aspects (Ulluwishewa, 1994).
Science can play an appreciable role in increasing understanding and choosing between options for agrometeorological services (Figure 1, also e.g. MacLeod, 1997; Gadgil et al., 2000), but differences in concepts and interests between farmers and scientists should be explicitly recognized (e.g. Cartier van Dissel and de Graaff, 1998). Finally, it should be observed that experiments with traditional aspects of sustainable agriculture as exempliﬁed in this paper provide important information, evidence and morale boosting for building agrometeorological services for decision making on risk management in agricultural systems. However, knowing their inherent limitations in actual agricultural practice, using contemporary science and policy support systems for guidance, is absolutely necessary. We want to make objectives and action plans (and their support systems) more realistic and to the point for creating (improved agrometeorological services for) sustainable livelihood systems (Santhakumar, 1995).
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