Journal article

Reducing Vulnerability of Agriculture and Forestry to Climate Variability and Change: Workshop Summary and Recommendations

Agriculture Forests Farming Natural resources Climate change Social change Aboriginal Australians Torres Strait Islanders

The International Workshop on Reducing Vulnerability of Agriculture and Forestry to Climate Variability and Climate Change held in Ljubljana, Solvenia, from 7 to 9 October 2002 addressed a range of important issues relating to climate variability, climate change, agriculture, and forestry including the state of agriculture and forestry and agrometeological information, and potential adaptation strategies for agriculture and forestry to changing climate conditions and other pressures. There is evidence that global warming over the last millennium has already resulted in increased global average annual temperature and changes in rainfall, with the 1990s being likely the warmest decade in the Northern Hemisphere at least. During the past century, changes in temperature patterns have, for example, had a direct impact on the number of frost days and the length of growing seasons with significant implications for agriculture and forestry. Land cover changes, changes in global ocean circulation and sea surface temperature patterns, and changes in the composition of the global atmosphere are leading to changes in rainfall. These changes may be more pronounced in the tropics. For example, crop varieties grown in the Sahel may not be able to withstand the projected warming trends and will certainly be at risk due to projected lower amounts of rainfall as well. Seasonal to interannual climate forecasts will definitely improve in the future with a better understanding of dynamic relationships. However, the main issue at present is how to make better use of the existing information and dispersion of knowledge to the farm level. Direct participation by the farming communities in pilot projects on agrometeorological services will be essential to determine the actual value of forecasts and to better identify the specific user needs. Old (visits, extension radio) and new (internet) communication techniques, when adapted to local applications, may assist in the dissemination of useful information to the farmers and decision makers. Some farming systems with an inherent resilience may adapt more readily to climate pressures, making long-term adjustments to varying and changing conditions. Other systems will need interventions for adaptation that should be more strongly supported by agrometeorological services for agricultural producers. This applies, among others, to systems where pests and diseases play an important role. Scientists have to guide policy makers in fostering an environment in which adaptation strategies can be effected. There is a clear need for integrating preparedness for climate variability and climate change. In developed countries, a trend of higher yields, but with greater annual fluctuations and changes in cropping patterns and crop calendars can be expected with changing climate scenarios. Shifts in projected cropping patterns can be disruptive to rural societies in general. However, developed countries have the technology to adapt more readily to the projected climate changes. In many developing countries, the present conditions of agriculture and forestry are already marginal, due to degradation of natural resources, the use of inappropriate technologies and other stresses. For these reasons, the ability to adapt will be more difficult in the tropics and subtropics and in countries in transition. Food security will remain a problem in many developing countries. Nevertheless, there are many examples of traditional knowledge, indigenous technologies and local innovations that can be used effectively as a foundation for improved farming systems. Before developing adaptation strategies, it is essential to learn from the actual difficulties faced by farmers to cope with risk management at the farm level. Agrometeorologists must play an important role in assisting farmers with the development of feasible strategies to adapt to climate variability and climate change. Agrometeorologists should also advise national policy makers on the urgent need to cope with the vulnerabilities of agriculture and forestry to climate variability and climate change. The workshop recommendations were largely limited to adaptation. Adaptation to the adverse effects of climate variability and climate change is of high priority for nearly all countries, but developing countries are particularly vulnerable. Effective measures to cope with vulnerability and adaptation need to be developed at all levels. Capacity building must be integrated into adaptation measures for sustainable agricultural development strategies. Consequently, nations must develop strategies that effectively focus on specific regional issues to promote sustainable development.

Publication Details
Publication place:
Dordrecht, Netherlands