Way to make the weather forecasts useful to farmers

Climate experts, farmers and other forecasters meet in a forum where weather information is discussed

Farmers plough their land in preparation for the coming planting season in Mt Elgon. Extreme weather and climate changes are a big risk factor in agriculture. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NMG 

IN SUMMARY

  • The stages of PSP are planning, weather advisory development workshop, advisory dissemination and finally monitoring and evaluation.
  • Although the Meteorological Department has the information, customisation of the same at the local level and development of advisories based on experience and knowledge of the indigenous situation requires stakeholder participation.
  • Farmers advised to carry out soil and water conservation projects.
  • These were the preparations as per the predicted weather conditions, and as it was just a forecast, they also discussed the opposite as well.

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Extreme weather and climate changes are a big risk factor in agriculture. In most cases, good rains are followed by warm sunny days that get hotter and drier.

It is for this reason that some agricultural programmes chain such as CARE International in Kenya came up with Participatory Scenario Planning (PSP) concept and it was adopted and intensified in all the 47 counties by the Agricultural Sector Development Support Programme.

What Is PSP?

PSP is a forum through which climate experts, indigenous technical knowledge forecasters and farmers meet and share knowledge for the purpose of planning under the predicted climate information.

The activity has been carried out twice a year in all the counties between 2013 and 2017 to coincide with the bimodal rain patterns.

This is just before the March, April and May (MAM) long rains season and October, November and December, which is the short rains season.

The stages of PSP are planning, weather advisory development workshop, advisory dissemination and finally monitoring and evaluation.

The activity has been led by the respective county meteorological officers facilitated by the agricultural programmes.

Normally, a workshop is held for all the stakeholders in the locality where the weather forecast is presented.

The offered information indicates if the rains are going to be normal, above or below normal. It also specifies when the rains are expected, the intensity (heavy or low), the duration (long or short) plus the start and the end dates.

Group multi-sectoral discussions on how to maximise profits using the given information follow and the groups come up with the advisories.

For example, in MAM 2016, it was predicted that some parts of one county would experience above normal rains. The farmers were thus advised to carry out soil and water conservation measures such as repairing their terraces as well as applying conservation agriculture.

They were also to clear drainage systems to avoid flooding, monitor signs of landslides in sloppy areas, avoid sheltering under trees when it is raining and ensure safety of their school going children.

DISTRIBUTION OF INFORMATION

They were further advised not to cultivate along the river banks to avoid siltation and pollution of water bodies but instead plant fodder such as napier grass that reduce soil erosion.

Livestock owners were also to scale-up disease surveillance. The preparation did not stop at farming, they were also advised on roofing, the passability of roads and how inputs will reach their farms and outputs to the market.

These were the preparations as per the predicted weather conditions, and as it was just a forecast, they also discussed the opposite as well.

The information normally is packaged both in English and vernacular and is shared through the media, including TV, radio, newspapers and social groups.

Also, public barazas are held and brochures with the relevant information distributed through value chain organisations and churches.

Two or so months after the advisory dissemination, an evaluation is carried out by a technical team. The aim of it is to find out the gender distribution of advisory recipients, the access to the information, the effectiveness of the communication channels, reliability of the weather prediction plus usefulness and benefits of the advisories.

In the case of the above county, 80 per cent of the target group had received and implemented the weather advisories. The participants recommended information sharing through the electronic and printed media.

Challenges to PSP initiatives?

Programmes are sometimes periodic and the sustainability of a facilitator is thus a challenge. A good PSP activity covering a county for the two seasons requires about Sh3 million. There is, therefore, need for a fund that can sustain the process.

Although the Meteorological Department has the information, customisation of the same at the local level and development of advisories based on experience and knowledge of the indigenous situation requires stakeholder participation.

Considering the importance and the localised nature of this activity, local organisations should spearhead the process and this include the county governments and chain organisations such as cooperative societies.

Dr Mwirigi is the deputy principal, Ahiti-Nyahururu. rivavet@yahoo.com

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