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