Agrometeorological information for resilient agri-food systems

Available data shows that increased occurrence of climate-related disasters is the new normal. Smallholder farmers and small-scale producers, the backbone of global food security and important stewards of land and water resources, are among those most vulnerable to climate variability and extreme weather events.

It is estimated that improved early warning systems for agriculture could lead to up to USD 30 billion per year in increased global productivity and up to USD 2 billion per year in reduced asset losses. Benefit to cost ratios of enhanced climate services for adaptation are 10 to 1 or higher.

Climate Services (CS) in the agriculture sector can support proactive decision-making among vulnerable communities to effectively respond to the growing impacts of climate change. FAO's Climate Risks team is leading FAO’s work on CS, which builds on its longstanding collaboration with the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). The joint effort is spurring groundbreaking research and action that links to disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation.

FAO and WMO support advancements in weather forecasting, climate and crop modelling and the strengthening of regional and national capacities to enhance preparedness, and to increase the delivery of climate services.

A people-centered approach to climate services (CS)

CS enables remote and vulnerable communities to enhance their climate-informed decision-making by using Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and effectively sharing information.

Despite significant advances in monitoring, collection and analysis of climate information and forecasts globally, CS in agriculture does not always reach the last mile, the small-scale producers.  This is due to a number of challenges including:

Attending to context-specific needs and making risk information comprehensible requires the establishment of feedback mechanisms between scientific, governmental and private institutions and the smallholders so that climate information is continuously improved to guarantee the effective provision of services.

FAO, together with WMO and other international partners are employing people-centered participatory approaches to overcome barriers in climate information dissemination.

In Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia,FAO, WMOand IGAD are working to enhance climate resilience through CS in the on-going Agricultural Climate Resilience Enhancement Initiative (ACREI) funded by the Adaptation Fund.The project is steered by successful capacity-building approaches such as Agro-Pastoral Field Schools (APFS), Participatory Scenario Planning (PSP), Participatory Integrated Climate Services for Agriculture (PICSA) and Community Managed Disaster Risk Reduction (CMDRR).

These approaches strengthen the collective interpretation, ownership and practical application of seasonal advisories and climate forecasts, which are translated into local languages— Kiswahili in Kenya, Oromifa in Ethiopia, and Luganda in Uganda. Sixty farmer field school groups have been formed and are being supported to undertake learning with focus on climate change adaptation.

Climate services must encompass a wide variety of user needs and this is beyond the capacity of any single organization, hence the call for collaboration between agricultural producers, the local private sector and value chain actors, to support and develop CS. The participation of multiple stakeholders along the CS value chain is essential to foster linkages and feedback mechanisms that ensure the continuous tailoring and improvement of climate information.