Viet Nam learning the importance of weather forecasts with agricultural advice
For the first time, farmers, meteorologists and government agricultural planners in Ha Tinh, Viet Nam are working together to provide locally-specific weather forecasts and accompanying agricultural advice in a bid to help farmers adapt more rapidly to changes in climate and weather.
Planning a farming calendar can be like dealing with obstructions that narrow a conveyor belt. This year, many Vietnamese farmers have had a double headache preparing for the summer. First of all, water reserves have not yet recharged after the extended dry and hot El Niño. Then cold spells delayed the spring harvests, which will postpone the summer crop. So the question now is, what short-duration crops are there that can be harvested before the rainy season starts?
Although farmers ask similar questions every year, this month was the first time officials from the Ha Tinh Provincial Center for Hydro‑meteorological Forecasting, the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) as well as members of the Farmers’ Union in Ha Tinh Province had met to prepare a seasonal agricultural advisory note aimed at farmers.
The work of bringing everyone together is part of the project, ‘Enhancing adaptive capacity of women and ethnic minority smallholder farmers through improved agro-climate information in South-East Asia’, funded by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security. The project is being implemented by the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) and CARE International in Viet Nam, Lao PDR and Cambodia. The objective is to provide practical agro-climatic information that is useful for female and male farmers, using scientific and local knowledge.
On the first day of the meeting, provincial meteorological staff were trained by a colleague from the national Institute of Meteorology, Hydrology and Climate Change on using software to create seasonal forecasts with indicators suitable for agriculture. Meanwhile, agricultural technicians, extensionists (advisors) and Farmers’ Union staff from the province, district and commune, as well as the village meteorological station manager, were taken through the basics of climate and weather impact on crop development and an introduction to ‘climate-smart’ agriculture.
‘It is a good chance for all of us to sit together, learn and share experience about the impact of climate change, find solutions for sustainable agricultural development and learn how to adapt to the changing climate’, said Tran Van Thong, deputy manager of Ha Tinh provincial Forest Protection Branch.
‘It is great that now I can confidently explain to fellow farmers the El Niño and La Niña phenomena as well as how the climate is changing’, said village meteorological station manager, Pham Thanh Thai.
During the second day, the team discussed the summer forecast, particularly, what potential risks it may bring and how best to present that information to farmers. Two burning questions were, ‘What is the minimum information that farmers need to prepare for a crop season?’ and ‘How can information be presented so that female and male farmers can easily take it in?’
‘This is the first time that we have been able to get together to discuss use of local weather forecasts’, said one officer from DARD. ‘Before, we relied on the general weather forecast on TV’.
The officer added that DARD now looked forward to receiving updated weather forecasts from the Center for Hydro-meteorological Forecasting and online weather forecasts throughout the cropping season so they could adjust their agricultural advice to farmers.
A technical group with staff from DARD, Center for Hydro‑meteorological Forecasting and the Farmer’s Union will complete the advisory note over the next few weeks and have it posted on village information boards. Different designs will be tested with farmers to improve the advisories for coming seasons. The people involved in this meeting will meet after the harvest to evaluate the advice. The intention is that the technical group will continue preparing advisories by themselves.
Provincial leaders are following the process with interest. In addition, the research team will assess the cost and benefits of focused agricultural advisories. In close collaboration with local authorities and donors, such information will help guide investment for expansion to other districts.
‘This idea will enable a higher-level collaboration between hydro-meteorological forecasting and agricultural technicians to provide agricultural advice throughout the cropping season’, said Tran Duc Ba from Ha Tinh Provincial Center for Hydro-meteorological Forecasting. ‘We believe that it will be warmly welcomed’.