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August 14, 2011

How climate data is benefiting Senegal`s farmers

Smallholder farmers have years of experience in assessing how climatic conditions, particularly rainfall, affect their crops. But as the climate changes, that knowledge — often gathered over a lifetime — may no longer be valid.

As a result, vulnerable farmers need help to adapt or fine-tune their practices. But as climate monitoring and research become more sophisticated, the gap between the technology and farming communities is getting wider.

A project in Senegal is now helping to bridge that gap.

The InfoClim project collects climate information and shares it with vulnerable populations, particularly farmers, to help them adjust their sowing, cultivation and other dates to suit the current climate.

The scientific data are then shared with communities through four well-equipped regional 'observatories'. Local people trained by the project use community radio stations and meetings to pass the climate information to farmers.

The project provides farmers and local communities with climate data and soil statistics, and helps them share their knowledge to improve planting practices and ensure better yields.

Members of community-based organisations, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and local decision-makers have learnt how to use agro-meteorological data to assess different options for adapting to climate change.

These include changing planting dates, using drought-resistant seeds, diversifying crops and planting perennial crops, improving water and soil management, fighting soil erosion, developing agro-forestry, integrating crops, livestock and trees, and finding alternative sources of income.

The success of the project has depended on building reliable networks between researchers and rural communities to share information on climate change.

'The project allowed the sharing of views on climate change and [highlighted] the importance of access to the information as a means of strengthening the capacity of rural communities to adapt to this phenomenon,' said Butare.

'We also involved people from the local administration, local political decision-makers, community-based organisations and NGO representatives,' said Butare. 'Those forums are still working after the end of the project.'

The three-year research project, which started in 2008, was due to end in December 2010 but was extended by six months, spreading across four communities: Fandène, Notto Diobass, Taiba Ndiaye and Thiès. Other regions of Senegal are now asking for similar projects to help them...

...SciDev.Net

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