Better weather information helps save animals during cold spells
In February, as northern Viet Nam was hit by the coldest weather in 40 years, villagers popped by Mr Trong’s house to ask about the temperature and the diligent village leader, Mr Tham, used the locally updated weather information to advise farmers how to protect their animals. For farmers to also be able to plan their planting times, locally-specific weather forecasts are critical.
Partly because of the tracking and partly because the cold spells were less severe, no cattle died in My Loi climate-smart village, which is a research site of the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).
The house of Mr Trong is home to one of the two farmer-managed, automatic weather stations that had been installed as part of the Agro-climate Information Systems for Women and Ethnic Minorities project, which is funded by CCAFS, in My Loi, Ky Son commune, northcentral Viet Nam.
The other is in Muong Phang commune, Dien Bien district, Dien Bien province in the northwest where, during an earlier cold spell, some 220 cattle died as well as other animals, such as fish and goats..
The village meteorological stations record temperature, rainfall, humidity, air pressure, wind speed and direction at the same intervals as official observations. They help farmers see the difference between the weather forecast, observations from the nearest official weather station and the actual temperature in the village.
‘Currently, the seasonal agro-advisories for planting times are rather uniform without much consideration of local climatic variations or seasonal forecasting’, explained Giang Thu Thi Le, climate-change expert at CARE Viet Nam.
The Agro-climate Information Systems project aims to provide advice that is better adjusted for local conditions in ways that suit the needs of women and ethnic minorities.
Before each crop season a meteorologist, agricultural advisors and farmers have been meeting as well, to plan for various weather scenarios. After the season, they meet again to evaluate the responses and document local knowledge so as to better plan for the following season.
Some people have asked, ‘Isn’t that weather station too complicated for farmers to understand?’ Researchers found that they only needed to explain the display and the equipment to farmers once, who understood immediately. Farmers also now have access to other technology.
‘We use an app called windyty.com’, said Quyen Huu Nguyen, climatologist with the Research Center for Agrometeorology. ‘It is a global forecast platform that is available for free online and in Vietnamese’.
When the project team used the app to show farmers moving wind patterns and zoomed in on the forecast for their commune, the farmers were very excited. They immediately wanted to know if the weather would be suitable for planting their spring crops within the next few days.
The meteorological stations have also sparked interest among commune leaders, who have requested more stations. Meanwhile, the project team is setting up a ‘roles and responsibility’ plan with local partners to ensure that information flows are sustained after the end of the project.
The Agro-climate Information Systems for Women and Ethnic Minorities project is supported by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security and is co-implemented by ICRAF and CARE in Viet Nam, Cambodia and Lao PDR together with local partners, including the Center for Community Development, Farmers’ Union and RCA in Vietnam.