South Asian farmers helped to share "climate smart" knowledge

Wed Apr 25, 2012 5:32pm IST

Farmers sit on a heap of sugarcanes loaded on a tractor outside of a sugar mill at Morinda in Punjab December 4, 2011. REUTERS/Ajay Verma/Files

Farmers sit on a heap of sugarcanes loaded on a tractor outside of a sugar mill at Morinda in Punjab December 4, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Ajay Verma/Files

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NEW DELHI (AlertNet) - A new initiative to spread information on adapting to climate change across South Asia will encourage farmers, scientists and policy makers to share effective ways of dealing with the impacts of global warming.

South Asia is home to one fifth of the world's population and is vulnerable to climate extremes, experiencing seasonal floods, cyclones and droughts that ravage vast swathes of agricultural land each year.

More than half of South Asians are dependent on farming, but most have little access to information that would help them adapt their agricultural practices to climate variations, say experts from the Consultative Group on International Agriculture Research (CGIAR), a global network of research bodies.

"There is a lot of data and scientific analysis available on projected changes in climate, observed and expected impacts on agriculture, and best practices for adaptation," said Pramod Aggarwal, head of CGIAR's Programme on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) in South Asia.

"But this intelligence is often scattered so that farmers, researchers, policy makers and other stakeholders cannot access it to make informed decisions. South Asia's climate adaptation challenge is too immense for this knowledge gap to persist."

In response, the CCAFS last week launched a "learning platform" to improve communication and share knowledge, which it hopes will bolster the region's agricultural resilience, improve food security and help reduce the carbon footprint of the farming sector.

Aggarwal said the initiative would disseminate climate knowledge through a quarterly e-newsletter, covering innovative farming strategies.

And farmers - few of whom have access to the internet - will be able to see best practice being implemented at "climate-smart villages". There are already 12 such villages in India and Bangladesh, and the CGIAR plans to build more.

The project will also promote dialogue by organising meetings, seminars and panel discussions bringing policy makers, scientists and farmers together.

PRAWNS TO PHONES

Experts say there are numerous examples in South Asia of effective methods of adapting to climate change which could and should be shared.

In India's Punjab region, for example, overuse of water has led scientists to look at using deep alluvial aquifers that can store vast amounts of water for use in dry periods.

In low-lying Bangladesh - one of the most well-known faces of climate change - farmers are turning flooded rice fields to good use by breeding fish and prawns in them.

And Nepali farmers are planting stress-tolerant crop and fodder varieties to improve yields and boost food security.

More hi-tech solutions are also on offer.

India's Agromet Advisory Service, for example, provides detailed weather forecasts, market data, pricing information and advisory services to three million farmers through their mobile phones. Its economic impact has been valued at more than $10 billion.

"Everyone has knowledge, we need to share it. It will make us all more climate smart," said Aggarwal.

(AlertNet is the world's humanitarian news site run by the Thomson Reuters Foundation. For more AlertNet stories, visit www.trust.org/alertnet)

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