"Business as usual won't help us meet the challenges that lie ahead...We have to change the way in which we farm, manage water, and manage nutrients in the soil...We need to think about measures to conserve nutrients, water and biodiversity." This is the opening statement made by a climate-smart expert.
Experiences from research and practitioners in the field suggest that ICTs are playing an increased role as enablers of change and transformation among all stakeholders from farmers through researchers to policy makers. The traditional communication technologies (radio, TV) and new media such as mobile phones, the Internet and social media applications are being recognised as part of strategies to adapt to, mitigate, and monitor climate change within agricultural innovation systems. The session will draw on experts' knowledge and practitioner experiences to answer challenging questions and move discussion on the subject forward.
Sophie Treinen works for the Food and Agriculture of the United Nations and leads the knowledge outreach team. She advocates for the gender sensitive and participatory methods using knowledge sharing methods and tools. Experience capitalization, also called systematization, is the process used to learn lessons from good and bad experiences. Good practices are documented when tested and validated. Sharing them enables to up scale them and have them adopted by others.
With its partners FAO is using the e-Agriculture platform to share archive ideas, experiences and good practices on ICTs for Agriculture.
Crowdsourcing crop improvement responds to the need for accurate, empirical, updated information about climate change adaptation options for farmers. Crowdsourced crop improvement involves farmers as citizen scientists in testing different crop varieties. The current approach, Participatory Variety Selection, has a number of limitations. The low consistency in group meeting attendance during the crop cycle makes observations haphazard. By relying on small individual contributions, crowdsourcing can overcome this problem. Costs of crowdsourcing are lower per farmer. This makes it possible to scale it out to a large number of farmers. Farmers get seeds of three different varieties (without their names!), plant the seed, and compare the different varieties for various characteristics. They then send this information to be analyzed. Also, environmental sensors measure local weather conditions during the crop season. After analysis of these data, information is sent back to them, including the names of the varieties that they tested and how their observations compare with their neighbours. They can then order seed and sign up for another testing round. Information is also shared with seed producers and plant breeders. Technology that is being used includes (1) mobile phones for farmers to send their feedback (we are experimenting with different ways of doing this), (2) a new software, called ClimMob, to analyze the preference ranking data, and (3) cheap, robust environmental sensors (iButtons), which measure temperature and relative humidity in many different locations. Regarding the mobile phones, we have found that very short telephone interviews with farmers can be a good option to get the feed-back. SMS-based solutions seem to be more difficult. Crowdsourced crop improvement is being tested in India, Honduras and Ethiopia by Bioversity International. Results from a first testing round are available from India. Users are farmers who grow one of the main crops in their area.
With the current trend of research for development, it has become more and more important that researchers not only communicate the research findings through journals, but also to transmit findings and applications to the development agents as well as the final users the farmers. This therefore necessitates the need for appropriate channel to communicate the information through. Therefore the scientific community has a new challenge, to be able communicate research adapting scientific knowledge to those that don't have scientific background but have an enormous experience working in the field. ICTs are perfect tools to help communicate the desired information to big numbers in a short time. IITA with other CGIAR centres are working within a global research program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) in different sites in Africa. Developing countries are and will be greatly affected by climate change due to the huge vulnerability levels present in these countries. Agriculture is the basis of their economies and therefore a small increase in temperature or extreme weather fluctuations will increase food insecurity and poverty. Mitigation and adaptation measures are solutions to deal with climate change and therefore avoid possible dreadful outcomes. However to be able to use these measures it is necessary for the scientific community to understand the environment where adaptation and mitigation is going to take place so as to be able to communicate the results of research to the farmers and together develop the best bet climate-smart scenarios which are out-scalable. From the project in Rakai, Uganda, we developed a video to be used as a tool to generate debate around climate change threats as perceived by the farmers, different coping mechanisms and the influence of gender within the local farming community in selecting these coping mechanisms. Videos can be a fantastic window where the main characters are the farmers talking about agriculture and their own experience collaborating with scientific projects and the outcome they obtained from it. It also providing an opportunity to bring different players like policy makers, development workers to see how farmers’ choices to deal with the challenges requires a system based approach rather than dealing with one given issue.