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Guyanese small farmers to get improved Climate Services

 

A section of the participants at the Participatory Integrated Climate Services of Agriculture (PICSA) workshop.

Guyanese farmers may soon be able to make better decisions if all goes well with a Participatory Integrated Climate Services of Agriculture (PICSA).

A workshop is currently being facilitated by the Ministry of Agriculture’s Hydro-meteorological Department, with funding from the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Programme for Building Regional Climate Capacity in the Caribbean Programme (BRCCC Programme).

The Ministry of Agriculture said the programme aims to enable farmers to make informed decisions based on accurate, location specific, climate and weather information; locally relevant crop, livestock and livelihood options, and with the use of participatory tools, aid their decision making.

The opening ceremony, which was held at the Herdmanston Lodge on Monday last, saw a number of facilitators who play key roles in regional and international agricultural development give presentations on how PICSA can be incorporated into extension activities.

The Agriculture Ministry says the project specifically targets small scale farmers with the overarching goal being to tailor climate information and services to support decision making.

“PICSA generally identifies the farming options for a particular location before presenting climate information to farmers in order to compare the climate information with the agricultural options for crops and livestock. The information provided would be able to guide farmers on what type of crops and livestock to invest in by determining which crops are resilient or suitable for the upcoming season,” the ministry said.

PICSA was developed by a team of agricultural experts from Reading University in the United Kingdom and was piloted in South Sahara, Africa in 2011. Since then, the approach continues to develop and is further tailored to specifically adapt to each country it is executed. This approach requires participatory action which would allow for the persons who play an integral role in agricultural development deliver information to its intended audience, that the information is understood, can be interpreted and acted on.

Chief Hydromet Officer Dr. Garvin Cummings indicated that the PICSA approach is not intended to replace extension services, but rather to improve services given by the extension officers.

Chief Hydromet Officer (ag), Dr. Garvin Cummings

“The PICSA approach is intended to train persons involved in the provision of agricultural services so that they can be carriers of climate information. With these officers equip with the ability to offer this additional information, Hydromet would not be required to create its own extension arm in terms of getting information to the farmers, but rather use the existing human resource infrastructure, train them so that when they go out into the fields they can be carriers of climate information.” Dr. Cummings said.

Dr. Cummings also indicated that the PICSA approach is heavily based on statistics and takes into account historical data and based on that information, it would determine the probabilities of particular events recurring.

In acknowledging that farmers are often conservative in their thinking and adopting new farming techniques, Associate Professor from Reading University’s School of Agriculture, Policy and Development, Dr. Peter Dorward indicated that the PICTA approach does not tell farmers what to do but rather presents the information so that they can make their own judgement.

Dr. Peter Dorward, Reading University Representative

“When we present the information, farmers would be able to see for themselves that if they, for example, planted a certain crop at a particular farming cycle that they have the best chance or the highest probability of having successes in their agricultural activities.” Dr. Dorward said.

In February of this year, a team from the Caribbean Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH), along with representatives from the University of Reading,  came to Guyana for the potential roll out of PICSA in Guyana. The aim of that visit was to examine the local conditions in Guyana and determine whether PICSA can be adopted here as a pilot project. If successful, it would then be implemented in other parts of the Caribbean.

The team was able to meet with farmers and expressed satisfaction with what they observed which led to Guyana being selected as the Caribbean state to lead the way for this project.

CIMH Representative , Adrian Trotman indicated that this programme, like the name suggests, is building capacity and enhance climate services for agriculture in the region.

“How can we provide a better service to the region? Not only as a regional organization but how we can help other member states through the national meteorological and hydrological services to provide meaningful information that will influence decisions, reduce their risks from hazards such as storms and droughts. It becomes critical, especially in this era where we are constantly discussing climate variability and change that people recognize that there is a service out there on regional and national scales that they can take information and make decisions how they operate.” Mr. Trotman said.

Adrian Trotman, CIMH Representative

The work shop will see representatives from the Hydromet Department, National Agriculture Research and Extension Institute (NAREI), Guyana Livestock Development Authority (GLDA), The Guyana Marketing Corporation (GMC), Pesticide Board, The Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB), The Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo), the Guyana School of Agriculture (GSA) and the North Rupununi District Development Board (NRDDB) benefiting. Over the course of the week they will be exposed to panel discussions and field exercises which will involve data collection and analyzation.

As government prepares to position the Intermediate Savannahs as the new frontier for agricultural development in Guyana, Regional Chairman for Region Nine Mr. Bryan Allicock while offering remarks indicated that his participation in the workshop shows support for the government’s vision for agriculture in the region and it (the region) stands to benefit tremendously from the workshop as new methods of predicting climatic patterns are necessary for agricultural development.

“Farmers in the past were able to predict weather patterns like long dry spells or extensive rain fall based on signs of nature, whether it be animal sounds or the flowering of plants. Now it has become difficult to depend on those signs because, for example, plants might be flowering but there would still be an extended dry spell. This training will be able to help us since we will be able to look at the data collected over a period of time from different areas – we have more collection areas now – and inform farmers on the best time to   start their preparation because most farmers are still dependant on old methods.” Mr. Allicock said.

During the course of the week representatives from the Caribbean Agriculture Research and Development Institute (CARDI), the University of Reading, the Hydromet Department and CIMH will be delivering presentations on PICSA and how they can implement this approach to improve agricultural practices throughout the country.