Showing how climate services can work for smallholder farmers!

The need to link investments in climate services to farmers' true needs was recently discussed at a Jamaica-based climate service conference in December last year. Photo: F. Fiondella (IRI)

At the recent Third International Conference on Climate Services, the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security showed donors, researchers and practitioners how climate services can work for smallholder farmers.

The needs of agriculture were front and center at this third annual gathering of a global community of climate information producers and users, organized by the Climate Services Partnership in early December, 2013, in Montego Bay, Jamaica.

The Climate Services Partnership (CSP) was formed in 2011 to harness the expertise of many actors seeking to improve the capability of climate science to inform development and adaptation decisions. The partnership helps shape a global research agenda for climate services and guide effective investment in improving access and use of climate services.

As a core partner in the partnership, the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) theme on Managing Climate Risks brings its expertise on the needs of farmers and food security stakeholders to the CSP’s knowledge sharing and collaboration platform.

Participants at the ICCS3 conference in jamaica, reviewing the intricate cliamte service-related posters showcased during the event. Photo: F. Fiondella

As a co-organizer and major co-sponsor of the ICCS3 conference, CCAFS made sure participants had ample opportunity to consider the information needs of smallholder farmers in the developing world. A preconference tour of the nearby Mafoota Farmers Cooperative, organized by the Jamaican Rural Agricultural Development Agency and sponsored by CCAFS, highlighted how drought threatens smallholder vegetable production, despite access to irrigation. A video and a story from the field tour to be made available soon.

To highlight some of the opportunities and challenges involved in making climate services useful to smallholder farmers, CCAFS Climate Risk Management theme leader James Hansen chaired a session, “Scaling up climate services for farmers: current challenges and best practices from pioneering experiences in Africa and Latin America.” 

Presentations and a panel discussion covered topics such as: pathways toward scaling up climate services for farmers by Arame Tall, a climate specialist based with CCAFS:

Producing locally-relevant climate information in parts of Africa where data are scarce by Tufa Dinku, International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI), training agricultural extension services to communicate complex climate information by Peter Dorward, from University of Reading), ensuring that services meet the needs of women farmers by Sandra Russo, University of Florida, and how Colombia is learning from experience in Senegal by Diana Giraldo, based with the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and the International Potato Centre (CIP).

A session led by the CCAFS team highlighted the missing pieces in current investments in climate services, and outlined a strategy for connecting investments in climate services to the needs of smallholder farmers. These insights shaped the discussion in a side event that dealt with the challenge of ensuring that investments are strategic and coordinated when multiple funding agencies invest in the various facets of climate services. 


A Tools Expo highlighted 27 climate information, data analysis, decision support and capacity development tools, including the CCAFS Regional Agricultural Forecasting Toolbox (CRAFT). 

Plans to host ICCS3 were closely related to an initiative by the Jamaican government to develop climate services as part of the national plan to build climate risk management into development policy, primarily for the agriculture sector.

Within just the past year, Jamaica has put into place new technical capacities for data management and drought forecasting, a weather-based crop pest early warning system, climate-informed agricultural advisories, and incorporation of climate services into training for agricultural extension and farmer groups.

Jamaica serves as an impressive example of how climate services can be mobilized to meet the needs of smallholder farmers in the developing world. 

Our ongoing involvement in the CSP has allowed CCAFS to collaborate with a growing global community of practice, and has put the needs of smallholder farmers solidly on the agenda of the CSP and several of the organizations within the partnership.

View photos from the conference. Photo credit to: Francesco Fiondella

James Hansen leads the research theme on Climate Risk Management, and is based with the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI).