Effective Medium for Communicating Climate Forecast Information

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Communicating uncertainty in climate forecasts is one of the major challenges in bringing forecast information to end users (Phillips et al. 2000). This is further complicated by regional dialects, many of which are limited in expression of abstract concepts which are often associated with climate prediction and forecasts. Climate forecast information containing relevant information leading to improved production decisions must reach the end users - the corn farmers, well in advance so that a farm-level decision can still be made. Both educated farmers (those who receive high school education and above) and less-educated farmers (those who have received elementary education only) have indicated their preference to receive climate forecast information primarily through mass media followed by personal contacts with extension agents. For policy makers, mass media, especially television and radio can be a cost-effective means of communicating climate-related information (Table 16.4). However, translating imperfect ENSO-related climate forecasts into information useful for improved farm-level decision-making remains a challenge that needs to be addressed. Climate forecast information should be translated to layman's terms as farmers and

Table 16.3. Type of climate-related information requested by agricultural extension workers and corn farmers in Isabela, Philippines

Information requested

Agricultural extension workers (%)

Farmers (%)

Onset of rainy season

20

25

Duration of rainy days

20

31

Rainfall distribution

20

26

Occurrence of typhoon

20

1

Occurrence of drought

20

17

1-2 weeks information lead time

74

100

Table 16.4. Corn farmers' perception on effective medium of delivery of climate-related information in Isabela, Philippines

Source of information Educated farmers (%) Less-educated farmers (%)

Through mass media 55 56

(radio,television, and newspaper)

Through personal contacts with 45 44

extension workers the extension workers often perceive these forecasts as absolute values and do not interpret the information in probabilistic sense. This presents an important consideration in implementing intervention strategy for farmers and extension workers to better appreciate and increase awareness of the value of climate forecasts to corn production.

16.4

Summary and Conclusions

El Niño event and the drought it brings is viewed by majority of Isabela corn farmers to have a far greater negative effect on their production system compared with La Niña episode since most of the corn areas are rainfed. For the farmers surveyed in Isabela province, the 1997-1998 El Niño occurrence resulted in an average yield loss of 1276 kg ha-1 of corn representing about 27% of the seasonal corn yield per hectare. The survey also showed an average loss of 700 kilograms of corn per hectare during the succeeding 1998-1999 La Niña event which represents about 16% yield loss. Farmers growing corn in mountainous communities such as in the municipality of Benito Soliven view La Niña occurrence as something beneficial to corn production considering their rainfed production system. Meanwhile, farmers in low-lying communities such as in Naguilian look at La Niña as something negative that can bring with it floods that can destroy their crops.

Agricultural extension agents derive their climate-related information primarily from the national meteorological agency (PAGASA) while farmers rely on television and radio for their advanced climate/weather information. Extension agents were not the main source of climate-related information for farmers. All farmers interviewed were not willing to change crop species even with advanced climate information. However, they were willing to modify only the choice of corn cultivars to grow, planting date, and time of fertilizer application.

Capital, the cost of farm inputs, the previous season's price of corn grains and their perceived seasonal climate outlook have equal influence on Isabela farmers' corn production decisions. Moreover, farmers' most requested information to be made available is the duration of rainy days. Both agricultural extension agents and farmers agreed on 1-2 weeks as the most ideal lead time for the delivery of climate forecast information. Television and radio broadcasts were the preferred medium for the delivery of climate forecast information. However, translating imperfect ENSO-related climate forecasts into information useful for improved farm-level decision-making remains a challenge that needs to be addressed. There is a need to translate the climate information and forecasts in terms of what the corn stakeholders can interpret and use correctly to guide decision-making in corn production system.

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