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February 10, 2011

Are food prices becoming more volatile? Yes, says the FAO (but it doesn't know what to do about it)

February 10, 2011

Helping farmers see their climate future: The Two Degrees Up project

February 10, 2011
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How do you help farmers prepare for climate change? Current climate models, while improving, are still too general and full of caveats and uncertainties to give exact farm-by-farm predictions on temperature, rainfall etc. But if you’re a farmer, you need to think ahead, for example, when deciding whether to plant crops like coffee, which can take 10 years or so to reach maturity. By that time, will the conditions still be OK for growing coffee?

The International Centre for Tropical Agriculture, CIAT, based in Colombia has come up with a neat way round this. If you are trying to sensitize farmers to what the future might hold, why not take them to visit another farm with the kind of temperature and rainfall characteristics that might apply in 10, 20 or 30 years? Sure, this requires applying the climate models to identify such trends – at the ambitious end, a database, where a farmer or extension worker could enter a current profile of temperature, rainfall, soiltype etc and click to find the nearest +10, +20 or +30 year area to visit in their area. But it’s less expensive, avoids spurious claims of certainty and it can be as simple as visiting farms a few hundred metres higher up and discussing the differences with the farmers there. Smart idea – ‘farmer to future’ as well as ‘farmer to farmer’.

Here’s the introductory video. For more see the CIAT website


  1. This is a great two-part video series and a perfect example of where the mindset of farmers needs to be, not just in the developing world but also those involved in our western, industrialized agricultural systems.

    A two degree change in global temperature will affect every growing area of the world. Is that such a hard concept for people to grasp? It amazes me that, here in the breadbasket of North America, we are still palying the ostrich and not even talking about adaptations that we will need to make to insure ag production remains sufficient to meet global demand.

    This simple response, a basic comparison of different climatic conditions within essentially the same eco-stystems could teach us a lot.

    I wish farmers and the ag industry as a whole were more receptive and less complacent here in Canada and the US, because I fear our ineptitude is going to cost us dearly in the next few decades.

  2. Thanks for featuring this! This video was produced in conjunction with a new 10 year research initiative on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security which is being led by CIAT, in partnership with more than 20 international and national research institutions. The program is indeed trying to do things differently, by linking climate science (which is notorious for large scale, and long timeframe models) with agricultural science which is very localized. Making knowledge useful for national decisionmakers but also farmers is a major priority here. And, as you mention, there’s a lot that scientists can learn from the farmers, who have been adapting to changing climates and uncertain conditions for a long time. And farmers have a lot to teach each other as well.

    Looking forward to reading more from you. You can follow us on twitter @cgiarclimate and see our blog http://www.ccafs.cgiar.org/blog

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