Learning journey inspires farmers to prepare for the future climate

Farmer in Lushoto, Tanzania. The study, based on a learning journey in Tanzania, aimed to identify plausible alternative future climate sites for Lushoto. Photo: S. Kilungu (CCAFS)
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Sep 12, 2017

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Lili Szilagyi (CCAFS)

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Farmer learning exchange enhances adaptive capacity while improving knowledge and changing attitudes towards climate-smart farming.

In order to prepare for climate change, farmers need to understand what their future climate is likely to be. As 70% of expected future climates already exist somewhere else on the globe, farmers can start preparing for their future by learning from sites with similar climates.

Connecting farmers to their possible future climates

The Climate Analogues Tool developed by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) takes climate and rainfall predictions for a particular site and searches for places with similar conditions at present. Comparing present-day farming systems to their future analogues can facilitate the exchange of knowledge between farmers in different locations who share common climate interests and allows adaptation strategies and technologies to be tested and validated. The Farms of the Future (FotF) approach uses the CCAFS Climate Analogues Tool to connect farmers to their possible future climates through farmer-to-farmer exchanges between spatial analogue sites.

CCAFS has been organizing farmer learning exchange visits in East Africa for many years to help farmers to learn, share, and adapt new climate-resilient agricultural practices and technologies.

A recently published paper co-authored by CCAFS scientists assesses farmer adoption of climate-smart agricultural practices and innovation after being exposed to the Farms of the Future approach. The 2015 study is based on a learning journey in Tanzania that aimed to identify plausible alternative future climate (spatial analogue) sites for Lushoto, Tanzania; sites with a current climate similar to the projected future climate in Lushoto.

Uptake of climate-smart agriculture practices

The 10-day long learning journey exposed farmers and agriculture innovation systems (AIS) stakeholders from Lushoto to their plausible future climate and the potential technological and institutional ways of adapting to these changes.

Farmers and AIS stakeholders learned about 15 different CSA technologies, practices, and institutional innovations, including soil and water conservation practices, forestry and cropping innovations, improving access to finance and weather information services.

The study compared the uptake of CSA practices and institutional innovations by the farmers who took part in the learning journey and those who did not participate.

For example, after the learning journey, more farmers use both indigenous knowledge and scientific weather forecast to plan their farming activities.

Researchers also examined the overall level of awareness and use of other CSA technologies among farmers in Lushoto, and found that while most farmers are aware of many CSA practices and innovations, only a small number are adopting practices because they are constrained by factors such as cultural practices, and lack of skills and knowledge on how to use the practices.

Feedback from farmers

For most farmers, the journey was a useful tool for learning different CSA practices and interacting with other farmers and AIS stakeholders.

The learning journey enhanced farmers’ learning experiences, as they provided explanations and opportunities for discussions about CSA technologies for which the farmers had limited knowledge and understanding. The farmers observed that they did not get enough time to absorb all the knowledge that they were learning; the trip duration is one of the areas where improvements are needed.

A community development officer who participated in the learning journey reported:

Throughout the journey, I observed farmers soaking in agricultural information from other farmers along the way. I too learned how a changing climate is affecting families and their livelihoods. The experience from the journey has improved my understanding of climate change and the various climate-smart practices that farmers can adopt both in Lushoto and other villages of Tanzania.”

The use of the Climate Analogues Tool, combined with the FotF approach, is a useful adaptation tool because it enables farmers to know what their future climate will be like so they can start preparing for it. Adding a learning journey where the farmers are able to visit areas already experiencing their future climate provided an opportunity to learn from other farmers and see first-hand their plausible future climatic conditions, allowing farmers to strengthen their adaptive capabilities.

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