Integrating gender and harnessing local knowledge

Nguyen Duy Nhiem (CIAT-Vietnam)

Sharing local knowledge to inform climate-resilient farming

Southeast Asia
Climate-Smart Technologies and Practices

In many parts of Asia, a lack of detailed geographic data is holding back the development and application of climate-resilient farming methods. Geographic information systems (GIS) can help fill these data gaps but do not take into account the local knowledge of smallholder farmers.

In contrast, participatory GIS (PGIS) enables farmers to share their knowledge with scientists, and combines this with methods to capture geo-spatial information – to create high-resolution maps that represent farmers’ knowledge of the land and that can also be used to empower them.

A project led by CCAFS and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) is using PGIS to obtain local geographic information in northern Vietnam. In 2015, the team worked in the village of Ma in Yen Binh District with staff from the Northern Mountainous Agriculture and Forestry Institute, commune officials and 2 local farmers.

L. Parker (CIAT)

After a short training workshop, the team used GPS to map the fields of 100 households and, at each GPS point, used short, simple surveys to record information from farmers on issues such as crops and varieties grown, pests and diseases, and climate stresses. Ma Village is topographically complex, including forested mountains, low-lying paddy fields and several small cultivated islands. The team coped well with this challenge, however, completing their visit in just 3 weeks. The result? A detailed and extensive database with information on both the biophysical and socioeconomic aspects of the local farming system.

“A successful survey requires fitting into farmers’ busy schedule, visiting the fields when they are undertaking required activities, such as planting or weeding. As a GIS team, we need to be flexible and responsive to farmers’ needs.” Huong Pham, agricultural economist at CIAT

The PGIS project in Ma Village is part of the wider Climate-Smart Villages initiative led by CCAFS and partners, involving villages throughout Africa, Asia and Latin America as test sites for climate-smart agriculture. In Ma Village, the fine-grained data obtained via PGIS has several applications in this context; for instance, to spatially prioritize the best climate-smart agricultural practices and provide a baseline for monitoring their success. By turning farmers into field scientists, the programme has set itself up for promising results.