Communicating Climate Change Science to Farmers
Authors: Jagriti Rohit1 and Saravanan Raj2
1. Scientist, ICAR- Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture, Hyderabad-500059
2. Director (Agricultural Extension), MANAGE, Hyderabad-500032
Global warming is for real. Every scientist knows that now, and we are on our way to the destruction of every species on earth, if we don't pay attention and reverse our course.
- Theodore C. Sorensen
Yes. Earth is already showing many signs of worldwide climate change ranging from high temperature to extreme weather conditions. Scientists are of opinion that global temperatures will continue to rise in coming decade largely due to anthropogenic activities. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) forecasts a temperature rise of 2.5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit over the next century. Climate change (and global warming) is impacting all sectors of human life but agriculture is particularly vulnerable to it. Climate change will have a negative effect on yields of irrigated crops across regions, both due to increase in temperature and changes in availability of water. Rainfed agriculture will be primarily impacted due to rainfall variability and reduction in number of rainy days (Venkateswarlu and Shanker, 2012).
We all have to admit that our climate is changing and more unpredictable and uncertain weather condition is being experienced around the world. People directly depending on the weather for their livelihood - the farmers, farm women and farm workers-are feeling and will continue to feel, more intensively than everyone else. It is well evident that Climate change disproportionately affects the people occupying the lowest economic strata of the society having least capacity to respond and adapt to such rapid environmental change, but are historically the least responsible for its causes. Now, climate change talks have taken a forefront on global political and economic agenda nearly after being neglected for more than two decades. The issue of climate change has traditionally been communicated as a scientific problem. Generally complex, confusing and at times contested scientific information used which resulted in a slow public and political response to the climate crisis. So, there is a strong need to address the issue in the language people understand.
Knowledge is power and farmers need to be communicated about this ongoing phenomenon. An informed farmer can take well thought decision in any aspects. The issue of how to communicate the topic of climate change to the farmers have not captured much attention of the researchers rather the issue of how to reduce methane emission or global warming had always been their top priorities. Climate change is a complex issue and needs an integrated approach for its adaptation and mitigation.
Communication stage 1:
When we are young, our parent taught us on different issues taking cue from the things we know and can easily understand. Young children are taught taking examples from things around them which they can see and feel. This strategy we need to adopt to make farmer understand to the science of climate change. The ultimate objective of teaching farmers on the concept of climate change is to adapt and mitigate it. So, the path taken to make farmer aware of climate change should not only reach to its ultimate goal and also the whole process needs to be sustainable. Sociologist, J. Gordon Arbuckle Jr. extensively researched on the topic and came out with the finding that in order to get farmers to use adaptive farming practices like low tillage or crop rotations, extension workers should avoid talking specifically about greenhouse gas mitigation or even use the phrase "climate change" at all. "Instead, the focus should be on adaptation to increasingly variable weather. Farmers are professional adapters, and they respond to the challenge of adapting to difficulty. Farmers are experiencing the changing climate of the area and they have also heard stories of the climate from their forefathers. By making them understand that these phenomenons are the sign of climate change, one can make the farmers partner in climate change adaptation and mitigation.
Communication stage 2:
A gap has been observed between the scientist and the farmers on the topic of climate change. There is a disparity in beliefs about climate change which may cause agricultural stakeholders to respond to climate information very differently." The gap in views on climate change is caused in part by how individuals combine scientific facts with their own personal values. Differences in beliefs are related to a variety of factors, such as personal experiences, cultural and social influences, and perceptions of risk and vulnerability. Sociologist Arbuckle further pointed out in his study that even if the farmers agree that climate change is happening, minority of them attribute it to human activity. It is very crucial to make the farmers understand that climate change is mainly contributed by anthropogenic activities of which he/she is also a part. Here comes the role of the people who farmers think are trustworthy. Farmers’ access information from various sources like neighbours, peer, government department officials, agricultural officials, NGO’s, private agencies, input dealers etc. these agencies should be trained in climate change science to provide authentic information to the farmers when needed. Researches’ have also shown that information coming from credible sources were more likely to be adopted by the farmers.
Communication stage 3:
Use of various strategies to reach the farmers and make them understand climate change is important. One of the example communications strategies is “working with the Shamba Shape Up” television program in Kenya. Shamba Shape Up, a knowledge-based agricultural entertainment TV-show has helped several small scale farmers across East Africa to be aware of climate change and get adapted to a changing climate while boosting livelihoods and incomes . This has been possible through delivering information about climate-smart agriculture via an innovative concept: a dynamic presenter duo and agriculture experts that together with families conduct so called farm "make-overs".
Farmer led processes of research and innovation
Farmers are researchers in their own field. Climate change science communication can take place using farmer led processes. Meinkes and Arachchi (2016) study on Adaptation to climate change by smallholder farmers in rural communities: Evidence from Sri Lanka showed that all the respondents have grown short season crops as the main farming practice to adapt to minimize the potential losses on their yields as they had observed rising trends in temperature and winds and lack of adequate rainfall during last twenty years. These examples can be used in Farmer field schools to talk about the science of climate change.
Using radio to communicate climate change and share farmers' adaptation strategies
Radio is an effective way of reaching small-scale farmers where rural farmers are among the most vulnerable to climate change. Radio programmes can encourage communities to assess local problems and identify local solutions, while also providing listeners with other useful information such as weather forecasts.
Climate-related risks and opportunities play a prominent role in agricultural development, but are not always recognized in planning and policy making. Climate change is now affecting crop productivity and the ability of farmers to harvest and process agricultural produce, with direct impacts on the nearly 70% of people in developing countries living in rural areas where agriculture is the main livelihood (Vermeulen, Campbell, & Ingram, 2012). It’s a high time that farmers should be made partner in the change if we want to really reduce the ill effect of climate change. Instead of using scientific literature and communicating in jargons with the farmers, we should make it into people's 'language' and it won't be long before we can finds solutions emerging right from them. Much alike 'Give a man a fish, he eats for a day; but teach him to fish and he eats a lifetime'.
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About Author / Additional Info:
: I am working as a Scientist (Agril.Extn.) in ICAR. I am working now for climate change extension and rainfed farming system.