Capacity development and innovative communication

C. Schubert (CCAFS)
Outcomes & Impacts

Locally tailored climate information helps African smallholders tackle climate change

East Africa
West Africa

Climate change calls for an innovative approach to rapidly enhance the capacity of smallholders to deal with erratic rainfall and increasing temperatures. It also brings unprecedented, rapid changes that may exceed farmers’ natural ability to adapt. A novel approach, called Participatory Integrated Climate Services for Agriculture (PICSA), makes available historical records and forecasts from meteorological agencies, providing farmers with information matched to their locality in a form that they can easily understand and use. Participatory tools allow farmers to combine accurate, location-specific, climate and weather information with locally relevant crop, livestock and livelihood options.

In 2015, CCAFS began scaling out the approach in West and East Africa. Scientists at the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) tailored PICSA to northern Ghana. The CCAFS research team at the University of Reading, where PICSA was first developed, launched a manual explaining PICSA, a field guide and a guide for trainers. ICRAF and the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) organized courses for staff in the Ghana Meteorological Agency. Meteorologists learned how to analyse historical weather data for input to PICSA and how to prepare smallholder-friendly seasonal forecasts and weather advisories

"… seasonal forecast outputs (covering a large zone) would be of little use for a farmer making decisions at a specific location. The training was thus on the basics of downscaling " Dr Ousmane Ndiaye, Senegal Meteorological Service

The African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) trained extension workers and staff in non-governmental organizations to use the PICSA approach. Trainers explained how historical climate data, together with seasonal and short-term forecasts, can help farmers plan which crops to plant and when. Once trained, local staff worked with groups of farmers well ahead of the planting season. As the time for planting approached, extension staff and farmers looked at the seasonal and short-term forecasts and fine-tuned their tactics.

CCAFS West Africa

Information about crops best suited to prevailing weather and climatic conditions, along with accurate forecasts, can lower the potential risk of farming. Farmers become more resilient. In 2015, by deploying the PICSA approach, CCAFS helped over 6 000 farmers in 140 communities in northern Ghana make their own decisions to adjust their crop, livestock and other livelihood practices to better match seasonal forecasts.

AIMS training of trainers for Oxfam and the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) means that the PICSA approach will soon reach farmers in Burkina Faso and Mali. The approach is already being deployed in Malawi and Tanzania in East Africa too, through the Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS) project and to Lesotho through the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). Other organizations adopting or adapting the PICSA approach are Farm Africa in Kenya, and Practical Action and World Vision in Zimbabwe.