For over thousands of years, human communities have established the capacity to adopt to environmental changes.
Climate Change Adaptation experts have called on governments and civil society organisations to invest in early warning systems in order to increase the capacity of all stakeholders to manage short and long-term climate risks and also reduce losses from weather related disasters.
For over thousands of years, human communities have established the capacity to adopt to environmental changes. Some of these adaptations include practicing shifting cultivation, using improved crop varieties and changing their grazing patterns.
However, currently the swiftness and strength of climate change is outperforming the speed of the age-old community adaptation tactics and is apparently threatening to overcome the ability of the rural poor to survive.
Paxina Chileshe, a Climate Change Adaptation Specialist at International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) says: ‘Investments in early warning systems and the dissemination of the alerts in a timely manner particularly through community networks would help reduce the losses from weather related disasters'.
And in order to help rural people, make better use of climate information and forecasts, Steve Twomlow, IFAD's regional climate and environment specialist for East and Southern Africa says; ‘we are working steadily to improve relationships between national meteorological services and the extension services of the ministry of agriculture.
One approach we have helped to develop and are now testing in East and Southern Africa is the PICSA approach to enable rural households to make better usage of climate information and forecasts.
This is being further supported through the development of SMS early warning systems in Rwanda, Lesotho and Uganda'
Participatory Integrated Climate Services for Agriculture (PICSA) approach involves agriculture extension staff working with groups of farmers ahead of the agricultural season to first analyze historical climate information and use participatory tools to develop and choose crop, livestock and livelihood options best suited to individual farmers' circumstances.
Then soon before and during the season, extension staff and farmers consider the practical implications of seasonal and short-term forecasts on the plans farmers have made. The project works directly with National Meteorology Agencies, government extension agents and non-governmental organisations.
Impact of PICSA
The impact of PICSA through improved climate information and decision-making tools enable small scale farmers in the target countries to improve their resilience in the face of erratic rainfall and increasing temperatures.
Capacity of Meteorological Agencies to produce relevant products that are useful for smallholder farmers' is increased and extension and NGO staff are also able to facilitate farmers to use complex information on historical climate, seasonal and short-term forecasts and crop, livestock and livelihood options in decision making.
And Amath Pathe Sene, the regional climate and environment specialist for West and Central Africa says that in Senegal, IFAD has incorporated insurance to increase capacity to manage short- and long-term climate risks and shocks and reduce losses from weather-related disasters.
He adds that Insurance schemes are being adopted in other countries in the region under the Green Climate Fund and that in Cote d'Ivoire, through IFAD projects the National Meteorological Agency is installing 750 rain gauges, 10 automatic weather stations and 11 mini-stations to help farmers better align their cropping calendar with the weather forecast.
In a similar development, delegates attending the Adaptation of African Agriculture (AAA) side-event at the just concluded 23rd Conference of Parties (COP23) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Bonn, Germany, called on: the need for Africa to reinforce its weather stations network, confirmation of Agricultural Research for Development (CIRAD) as scientific partner of AAA; AAA to contribute to addressing emergencies and priority needs; interest in actions that can be led by youth; need for "light" processes for project clearance and improved relations between promoters of Agriculture Adaptation projects and ministries of environment and forests.
Speaking at the same side-event, the World Bank's Stephen Hammer and AFD's Jean-Luc Francois confirmed their respective support to the AAA Initiative.
However, Jaconius Musingwire, the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) focal person for Western Uganda advises smallholder farmers and poor households who are more vulnerable to the effects of climate change to implement and use the simple interventions they are taught in the few training opportunities that they get.
‘We have been training smallholder farmers how to mitigate and adopt to effects of climate change so that they can reduce their vulnerability to climate shocks and therefore increase their agricultural productivity by using simple methods like rain water harvesting, drip irrigation and shifting cultivation'.
He also advises agricultural extension workers to disseminate the knowledge about how local communities can use available means to mitigate effects of climate change adding that it won't be of help if they sit and wait for external help.
‘It is by working with the rural poor themselves that we can think of reducing the risks related to climate change and by so doing help in reducing rural poverty and hunger'. Jaconious Musingwire concludes emphatically.