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Lack of information on climate change hampering subsistence farming

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The capacity of local farming communities to respond accordingly to rainfall extreme events is often constrained by lack of access to information, resources, improved technologies and advisory on smart practices.

In the West African Sudan Sahel region, subsistence farming needs climate information, but farmers also need practical advisory on how this information can be translated into optimized actions.

It is against this background that the West African Science Service Center on climate change and the Adapted Land use, WASCAL, has implemented an agro-climate extension project dubbed ”APTE-21”.

The research project is implemented for smallholder agriculture in the Upper East Region and Burkina Faso among other West African countries.

The farming project is supported by the French Ministry for Foreign Affairs and International Development (MAEDI), and the Institute of Research for Development, IRD.

The APTE-21 project aims at exploring and exploiting the potential advantage of rainfall extremes for smallholder farming. In particular, the project will improve the production, access and use of local information on high impact weather or climate events to family farms in the Upper East Region, Bakel in Senegal and Ouahigouya and Dano in Burkina Faso.

It uses proactive and participatory dissemination protocols such as climate field schools, community co-production, advisory and new technology including mobile phones, applications and internet for agro-climatic information extensions, and builds small on-farm infrastructure to alleviate negative impacts of rainfall extremes.

Capacity building of actors and exchange of experiences are key outcomes of the project. Therefore, APTE-21 project capitalizes on the achievements of previous projects including Global Climate Change Alliance, GCCA, among others to train high school students and promote gender equity.

The WASCAL Coordinator of Vea Basin in the Bolgatanga Municipality, Samuel Guug, said climate is a global concern and WASCAL as an institution is committed to providing the world with climate change information.

He underscored the need for the climate change information to start with observed data. This, he noted, necessitated the installation of climate stations across West Africa.

Mr. Guug said the climate change stations give them information including basic weather parameters like rainfall, temperature, relative humidity among others. Mr. Guug stated that the climate change stations also give them information of global concern like CO2 emissions, water vapor and methane.

He said the climate stations help WASCAL to give accurate information to farmers during the farming season.

The Bolgatanga Municipal Director of MOFA, Dr. Bernard My-Issah, said the APTE-21 project will help improve food production in the Municipality and the region at large. He said his role in the project is to provide advisory services.

He said the role of WASCAL in APTE-21 is to look for climatic information and disseminate the information to peasant farmers who will utilize it to maximize production. He said his outfit supported the project with good agro-nomic practices.

In an interview with GBC’s Radio Ghana, the Senior Climate Scientist, Coordinator of WASCAL and Seasonal Forecasting, Dr. Seyni Salack, said the long term objectives of WASCAL are to combat climate change and improve livelihoods in West Africa.

He said the project forms part of solving issues of climate change particularly in the area of agriculture family-farming.

He said the wrapping-up of the APTE-21 project is just the beginning of a long journey to support and help farmers use climate change information to plan well as well as to be able to cope with extreme events that are generated by climate change in the short-term and the long-term.

He said they learnt some lessons and some good practices which will help them scale-up at a larger level.

He said one thing that came-up in the past few years in implementing the project is that the farmers they worked with know much about climate change information, including what is it about in the short-term scale and the long-term scale, adding that the farmers know how to use it in their planning and the way they should manage the crops during the raining season.

Dr. Salack added that it has had a positive impact particularly in increasing their productivity.

According to Dr. Salack, the project seeks to enhance the living conditions of smallholder farmers across West Africa. He said his outfit has a lot at hand to implement in other West African countries WASCAL intends piloting its projects.

WASCAL is a large-scale research-focused Climate Service center designed to help tackle this challenges and thereby enhance the resilience of human and environmental systems to climate change and increased variability.

It does so by strengthening the research and infrastructure and capacity in West Africa related to climate change and pooling the expertise of ten West African countries and Germany.

Some beneficiaries in the Bongo District, who spoke with Radio Ghana, expressed their satisfaction about the project.

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