The new Bristol for farmers

“A real picture of customs, when a scream breaks the dialogue of the lady, the Bristol, take the 2009 Bristol, a thousand no more! offers the edition of the picturesque almanac – an orange booklet only 30 pages long in which forecasts, lunar changes, the zodiac signs, jokes, famous phrases, among other curiosities are provided”  Germán Arciniegas.

As farmers know well, the Bristol almanac is an instrument of ancestral reference to guide decisions, such as the best time for sowing or fishing (El campesino.co, 2017)

CIAT, together with the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), the Colombian Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies (IDEAM), the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MADR) of Colombia, and about 28 other institutions have been leading the National Agro-climatic Technical Committee and the Local Agro-climatic Technical Committees in six departments of Colombia. In these committees, discussions take place between actors of the agricultural sector on agroclimatic information management to identify the best adaptation practices in the face of expected climatic events, which are then transferred to technicians and producers through the National and Local Agroclimatic Bulletin.

In 2015, the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (SAG) of Honduras signed a cooperation agreement with CIAT-CCAFS to contribute to the development of the Honduran agricultural sector. Currently, with the establishment of five local technical agro-climatic committees, Honduras is replicating the experiences of Senegal and Colombia, and taking significant steps towards a framework of agroclimatic information management with various national and regional actors.

How to make climate information useful to farmers?

Without a doubt, the technical committees are a successful advance in “tailoring” agroclimatic information to scales at which local decisions can be made, such as changing the date of planting by one or two weeks, based on the crop and climatic conditions, to sow on a later date with projections of better soil suitability and adequate levels of water and solar radiation for growth. This improves the chances of obtaining high crop yields or minimizing climate-related loss.

Nevertheless, a challenge remains on how to make the agroclimatic bulletins available to farmers in more effective ways and how to determine more precisely whether and how the information published every month in the bulletin has generated changes in knowledge, the practices and the attitude towards climate-tailored decision-making. Committee participants’ responses to this challenge are:

I share the information with farmers, but how do I reach many more?

 

Yes, I share the agroclimatic bulletin with farmers, but I do not know what they do with the information.

 

I do not know how to connect climate information to farmers’ decision making.

 

The information in the bulletin is excellent, but how can I communicate things such as probabilities to farmers?

 

To address these concerns, we present the new Latin American version in Spanish of the Participatory Integrated Climate Services for Agriculture (PICSA), Field Manual. In Latin America, PICSA aims to help farmers make informed decisions based on accurate, site-specific, climate information generated by the local agro-climatic technical committees. All of the data is contextualized concerning their production systems and subsistence activities and draws on participatory tools. The field manual provides step-by-step instructions for working with farmer groups and is targeted primarily at extension agents who have been trained in the use of the PICSA approach.

 

Where was PICSA born? PICSA was developed by the University of Reading with support from Nuffield Africa to pilot in Zimbabwe and then from CCAFS to explore its wider use in sub-Saharan Africa. So far, PICSA has been used to support small farmers in 14 countries, where the PICSA team work directly with national meteorological agencies, extension agents and non-governmental organization, and has reached more than 50,000 farmer householdsNow in Latin America, through the regional program of CCAFS in partnership with CIAT and national partners, the implementation of the PICSA approach and adaptation to the characteristics of the region has begun.

Implementation of PICSA in Latin America

Besides being able to project relevant climatic information into the future, it is necessary to seek alternative agricultural management practices to adapt to future conditions and implement effective mechanisms that can be sustainable under a framework of effective communication with farmers. During 2017, CIAT and partners, together with farmers, will be implemented in the field the PICSA approach tailored to the Latin American context. The pilot sites for the first crop season will be the Climate-Smart Villages (CSV) of Santa Rita (Honduras) and in the Cauca Department (Colombia), followed by the CSVs of Olopa (Guatemala) and El Tuma-La Dalia (Nicaragua).

Want to learn more? Contact Diana Giraldo (d.giraldo@cgiar.org) – project leader; and Efraín Leguia (eleguia@catie.ac.cr) and Luis Alfonso Ortega (luisortegafernandez@gmail.com) – coordinators of the Climate-Smart Villages (CSVs) activities in Latin America.