We can forecast weather and prepare our farm better
‘When the mountain turns pink, with the clouds rising along its top, and the goats eat more, it will rain.’
By Tran Ha My, Elisabeth Simelton, Le Thi Tam
For thousands of years, the farmers of My Loi village in Ha Tinh Province, Viet Nam observed the sky and interpreted natural phenomena, like flowers, livestock, birds, to forecast weather. This knowledge was passed from generation to generation because the predictions were often accurate.
However, climate variability has become more pronounced and the farmers of My Loi now face numerous slow- and fast-onset natural hazards with negative impact on their livelihoods. In an attempt to adapt, the farmers have been shifting from traditional crop varieties, rendering their forecasting skills less accurate.
‘In the past, by looking at the sky, soil and animals, we here could forecast weather. However, now that the climate is changing, it is harder to predict the weather. Therefore, our knowledge is not always helpful for us,’ said Van Minh Dan, a farmer in My Loi.
This is compounded by a lack of actionable climatic information services for agriculture. Such services should be accessible, accurate, timely and understandable to reduce the risk of crop failure, but are largely unavailable, not only in My Loi but throughout Viet Nam and other developing countries. Farmers are rarely included in the design of agro-climatic information products, which restricts their knowledge of the service.
To minimize the risk of weather impacts, during the Climate-smart Village project, which was led by World Agroforestry with support by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security, integration of climatic information services was seen as a productive combination of farmers’ traditional knowledge and scientific knowledge.
The integration helped farmers, especially women, to more actively and wisely adapt to climate change. Through a group of forecasters, translators, planners, extensionists and farmers, known as the Participatory Scenario Planning workshop, seasonal weather forecasts and agro-advisories were co-produced. This closed the loop between producers, translators and the users of climatic information. In the workshops, farmers reflected on their previous actions and prepared plans, which built trust in the climate product.
‘In the workshops, we were facilitated step by step to change or improve our traditional farming practices that were unsuitable for the current climate,’ said farmer Le Thi Diep. ‘We had the chance to express our opinions and receive seasonal information from different sources. Based on that, we identified if the next season would have more rain or be a drought. Then, we could make plans on what to plant and how to plant to adapt, with this forecasted information.’
The results of the workshops were shared widely by leading farmers and village heads to their neighbours through printed bulletins and public announcements made through village loudspeakers.
The agro-climatic information service was designed to reduce farming system failures in the Climate-smart Villages project. It also offers a unique opportunity to incorporate agroforestry into climate services and, thus, support the implementation of national adaptation strategies in local land-use plans.
At farm level, preparedness and better planning frees labour and resources from recovery operations to invest in more productive work. The results of integration of the agro-climatic information services was a highlight of the Climate-smart Village project.
After the project’s four years (2015–2018), agroforestry, vermiculture, improved livestock cages and improved access to seasonal forecasts and agro-advisories improved farmers’ livelihoods and their capacity to adapt to weather variability and climate change.
Moreover, the participatory approach encouraged both women and men to actively participate. As a result, women and men are now asking questions, facilitating discussions and sharing their experiences with their peers and to local leaders who joined the workshops.
Climate-smart agricultural practices have been integrated into the New Rural Program of Ky Son commune and Ky Anh district since 2017. Under this program, My Loi was selected as one of the demonstration villages in Ky Son. The practices are now also part of the agricultural plan of the district’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Farmers Union, leading to the formation of farmers’ groups to implement the practices.
‘The results in My Loi are gradually becoming a model for other villages to follow,’ said Nguyen Thi Nhuan, vice-chairman of Ha Tinh Farmers Union.
In addition, the project also provided technical advice to connect the provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and the meteorological centre to enhance access to climatic information based on the needs of users, providing more accurate agro-advisories throughout Ha Tinh.
Finally, the project shared information to eight neighbouring villages in Ky Son and upland communes of Ky Anh.
Watch a video about My Loi
World Agroforestry (ICRAF) is a centre of scientific excellence that harnesses the benefits of trees for people and the environment. Knowledge produced by ICRAF enables governments, development agencies and farmers to utilize the power of trees to make farming and livelihoods more environmentally, socially and economically sustainable at multiple scales. ICRAF is one of the 15 members of the CGIAR, a global research partnership for a food-secure future. We thank all donors who support research in development through their contributions to the CGIAR Fund.