In Colombia, there are many farmers associations that represent the most productive sectors in the country. Many of them have strong participation and serve farmers of major staple crops. Until recently, however, these organizations were relying on “blanket” recommendations, and their farmers were managing their farms without any prior knowledge of climatic conditions for the coming season. Additionally, the data that was available was general regional data that was not site specific to where farmers work. Technicians were uncomfortable sharing their data and were accustomed to using disposable or single-use data to make recommendations. A skill gap remained in the capacity to analyze and apply the results of historical data, and to produce skillful forecasts that would allow a better planning for the cropping season.
Beginning in 2014, CIAT entered into an agreement with the Colombian Ministry of Agriculture and national farmers associations to find and apply alternatives in the agricultural sector to adapt to local conditions and improve use of natural resources. To assist farmers in local adaptation, CIAT’s Agriculture and Climate Modeling Team provided capacity building on climate data analysis and seasonal forecasting to association technicians. Alongside, CIAT’s Big Data team empowered the technicians with novel ways of collecting and analyzing productivity data with a “climate lens.” Both teams work together within the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).
In a brilliant example of public-private partnerships, CIAT collaborated with the National Rice Growers Association (FEDEARROZ) and the National Cereal and Legume Growers Association (FENALCE) as well as the Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies (IDEAM) to achieve this outcome, improving the way thousands of farmers are managing their crops, and ultimately enhancing their livelihoods. FEDEARROZ is a major rice farmers association in Colombia, representing approximately 24,000 producers; FENALCE has over 7,000 members, while IDEAM supports entities in the public and private sectors in Colombia through real-time monitoring of climate, seasonal climate and weather forecasting, and environmental sustainability policies.
What has changed?
Project partners experienced changes in attitude, technical knowledge of modern analysis tools, and skills in interpreting results. Prior to working with CIAT, according to members of the associations, neither FENALCE nor FEDEARROZ used all of the available agro-climatic forecasting and site-specific agriculture methods, but now FEDEARROZ and FENALCE have staff members with full-time dedication to this work. As a result, these institutions are now incorporating site-specific climate management into their extension work, and are producing their own agro-climatic forecasts to make informed agricultural decisions. Members of the associations now store and analyze improved data quickly through a mobile application, and are operationally producing monthly agro-climatic bulletins and leading local technical agro-climatic committees. Also through CIAT-CCAFS capacity building, both institutions applied new skills and developed a centralized data repository in Bogotá and standardized data collection formats at a national level.