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Increased Awareness of Risk Management Boosts Self Reliance
Geneva, 12 October 2011 (WMO) – A four-year pilot project involving 15 West African countries has trained 5 700 subsistence farmers – including 1 000 rural women - in how to access and use weather and climate information to maximize yields and minimize risks.
The project, known as METAGRI, organized 146 roving seminars to increase the interaction between National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) and farmers whose livelihoods depend on the weather.
These seminars increased the self-reliance of rural farmers by raising their awareness about effective weather and climate risk management and the sustainable use of weather and climate information and services for agricultural production. They also provided crucial feedback from the rural agricultural community to the NMHSs.
In a region which is susceptible to both extremes of droughts and floods, NMHSs involved in the project also distributed just over 3 000 rain gauges to 2 838 villages, providing farmers with a simple but invaluable crop management and planning tool which is taken for granted in many parts of the world but remains here a scarce luxury for poor communities.
“The experience of this pilot project in West Africa will serve as important guidance for the development of the Global Framework for Climate Services, which is meant to increase the availability and relevance of climate information needed by people to plan ahead in a changing and increasingly variable climate,” said World Meteorological Organization Secretary-General Michel Jarraud.
“Agriculture is one of the top priorities of the Global Framework, which envisages a user-interface platform to link the providers of weather and climate information with the users. The roving seminars have clearly demonstrated that this interaction can foster better communication between the weather / climate and agricultural communities and help farmers improve food security and reduce risks,” he said.
WMO has also provided technical help in the organization of similar roving seminars in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, India, and Sri Lanka.
Project pioneered by Mali, funded by Spain
The State Agency for Meteorology in Spain (AEMET) funded the project and WMO provided technical coordination as part of a wider initiative to strengthen West African NMHSs, including through programmes on climate and health and marine meteorology and management.
The concept of pilot projects on weather and climate with farmers in West Africa was developed by the National Meteorological Service of Mali 25 years ago and the aim of the METAGRI project was to spread the experience and improve agriculture and food security in all West African countries.
Mali now enjoys effective collaboration between government agencies, research institutions, media, extension services, and farmers. Farmers taking management decisions using agrometeorological information have enjoyed significant gains in yields and income. For instance, studies showed that the effective use of this information has reduced the re-sowing rate by 35% and increased crop yields average by 20% to 25%, compared to “non-agromet” farms.
The following West African countries were involved in the METAGRI project: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Côte d´Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, and Togo. Roving seminars were held in all countries except Côte d´Ivoire and Liberia which will organize seminars later in 2011.
From 26 to 30 September 2011, a series of three final project meetings were held in Bamako, Mali, hosted by the National Meteorological Service of Mali. These evaluated national activities and achievements and discussed a future roadmap to build on the lessons learned and take advantage of new communications tools.
Over the four year period, a total of 7 222 people participated in the seminars of which 5 699 were rural farmers and the remainder were from meteorological services, agricultural extension agencies and other national technical institutions. Almost a thousand women – who are often the backbone of the farming community - were trained to better use weather and climate information.
A total of 3 095 rain gauges were distributed to farmers in 2383 rural villages.
The roving seminars ranged from one to two days and brought together farmers from a group of villages to a centralized location in any given region. Benefits included good partnerships with local organizations, better understanding of the needs of the rural farmers by the NMHS’s, and better perception of climate change by the farmers.
In Phase I of the METAGRI project, roving seminars were organized in Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and Senegal from September 2008 to January 2009. Phase II involved the organization of roving seminars in Benin, Cape Verde, Gambia, Guinée, Guinée-Bissau, and Togo from February 2009 and to July 2010. In Phase III, seminars were organized in Ghana and Nigeria in 2011 and are scheduled for Côte d´Ivoire and Liberia later in the year.
In 2007, the METAGRI project was proposed by the Conference of Directors of National Meteorological and Hydrological Services of West Africa organized by WMO and the Spanish State Agency of Meteorology (AEMET). Since 2007, these Conferences have developed Action Plans with the objective to reinforce the NMHSs of the region. METAGRI focuses on food security and agriculture. There are other projects developed for climate and health, marine meteorology and management.
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For more information, please contact the World Meteorological Organization:
Clare Nullis, Media Officer, World Meteorological Organization, Tel: +41 (0)22 730 8478; +(41 79) 7091397 (cell), e-mail: cnullis[at]wmo.int