The role of climate forecasts in smallholder agriculture: Lessons from participatory research in two communities in Senegal uri icon

abstract

  • Climate forecasts have shown potential for improving resilience of African agriculture to climate shocks, but uncertainty remains about how farmers would use such information in crop management decisions and whether doing so would benefit them. This article presents results from participatory research with farmers from two agro-ecological zones of Senegal, West Africa. Based on simulation exercises, the introduction of seasonal and dekadal forecasts induced changes in farmers' practices in almost 75% of the cases. Responses were categorized as either implying pure intensification of cropping systems (21% of cases), non-intensified strategies (31%) or a mix of both (24%). Among non-intensified strategies, the most common forecast uses are changes in sowing date and crop variety with the latter being more prevalent where a wider repertoire of varieties existed. Mixed strategies generally used more inputs like manure or chemical fertilizers coupled with another strategy such as changing sowing date. Yield estimates suggest that forecast use led to yield gains in about one-third of the cases, with relatively few losses. Impacts varied according to the nature of the actual rainy season, forecasts accuracy and the type of response, positive ones being higher in wetter years, with intensified strategies and with accurate predictions. These results validate prior evidence that climate forecasts may be able to help Senegalese farmers adapt to climate variability, especially helping them capitalize on anticipated favorable conditions. Realization of potential advantages appears associated with a context where there is greater varietal choice and options for intensification.

publication date

  • 2014