A changing and extremely variable climate is challenging farmers and food security. New approaches to rural advisory services are needed to support farmers’ decision-making processes and boost their resilience to the impacts of climate change.
Currently, in the agricultural community there is a lot of work on meteorological data for their use in decision making (both for the farmers and researchers).
Under the GODAN umbrella, the GODAN Action project, funded by DFID, focuses in the first year on weather data, with special attention to those relevant for use in farm management systems.
The initial phase of the project consisted in a gap analysis of use and usability of weather data standards and related recommendations on how to reduce the gap.
Among the main findings of the gap analysis are:
1. According to most experts, the biggest challenges with weather data are related to issues of data availability, discoverability, quality, coverage and documentation; the lack of standardization is a challenge but less impeding than the above.
2. Both for weather data and for farm management data, standardization of variable names across the different communities and even within the same community is an issue. Some work has been done, but there is no naming convention that is universally used, nor mappings or cross-walks between variables used in different systems.
3. Given the varied landscape of data providers and related formats, intermediaries still have to do most of the work converting, processing, re-purposing the data between the different steps in the data value chain.
Another example of the work that is being done on this topic is the Big Data for climate-smart agriculture, a project of CGIAR. This project aims to support a novel use of Information Communication Technologies (ICTS) and Big Data principles to develop a two-way Climate-Site-Specific Management System (CSMS), that allows farmers to contribute with self-generated data on soil, crop management and production in return for tailored, site-specific information on Climate-Smart Practices (CSP).
The project is conducted jointly with the Latin American Fund for Irrigated Rice (FLAR) in Colombia, Peru and Nicaragua.
The project farmers will use the Climate-Site-Specific Management System to better understand site specific crop responses to climate variability, in order to improve crop management and identify the best climate-smart agricultural practices. In the short term, the CSMS will allow at least 5000 farmers to:
· Improve their management practices of current varieties.
· Maximize their productivity.
There are of course many other initiatives working with weather and climate data, but the special aspect of the two projects above is that they bring together several big institutions to solve common problems, the first one involving global and European institutions on the issue of data standards, the second one involving especially Latin American institutions on data needs of the farmers on the ground.