Platform for African – European Partnership in Agricultural Research for Development

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Climate Analogues: Finding Tomorrow’s Agriculture Today

Scientists have issued an analysis of East Africa’s future climate as the first step in a new programme that will help farmers grow crops that will best thrive in the changed weather conditions 20 years from now, a new study has shown.

“Climate change will significantly alter growing conditions, but in most places the new farming environment will not be novel in the global context,” said Julian Ramirez, a scientist based at the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture in Colombia and a lead author of the study.

The report is compiled by the Consultative Group on International on International Agricultural Research programme on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security.

Titled, Climate Analogues: Finding Tomorrow’s Agriculture Today, the report forms the platform of a global programme to exchange knowledge between communities on current agriculture practices that can help maintain productivity in the future, despite potentially dramatic shifts in growing conditions.

Under Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), researchers have developed a software-based tool that offer farmers a glimpse into their future by identifying places where growing conditions today match those expected in their fields in two to five decades’ time. The tool can be used to link climate and crop models with agricultural technologies, including improved varieties and agronomic practices, by matching sites that could offer ideas for adaptation to shifting climate patterns.

The software offers two interfaces developed for different user groups. The first, known as an R-library - a free software environment for statistical computing and graphics - is targeted at those with some background in programming and statistics. The second is an online interface that draws from the R-library, built for scientists working in agriculture but with more limited technical skills.

The tool uses a series of statistical functions applied onto future and current climate data, as well as input from the user (target-site location and some tool-specific parameters) to find out where the analogue areas of a particular site’s future or current conditions are located. Hence it answers the very important question: how will my site look in 30 or 50 years?

The CCAFS programme will also fund a series of farmer exchanges between South Asia (involving India, Nepal, and Bangladesh) and East Africa (covering Ethiopia, Tanzania and Kenya). This initiative, called “Farms of the Future”, is being coordinated by social and agro-climate scientists, and aims to evaluate farmers’ responses to changing climatic conditions. The key idea is to use the climate analogue tool to acquaint farmers with their possible climate futures via physical farm visits in different regions of the world. 

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