It is estimated that hunger is currently affecting one out of every seven people on planet Earth. Projections show that unless the world community is prepared to undertake intensive and sustained remedial action over a long-term, there could still be almost 700 million people chronically undernourished by the year 2010, with over 300 million in sub-Saharan Africa alone. Agriculture and its associated industries are primary sources of food and a major employment sector in most developing countries.

Climate change, and increasing climate variability, as well as other global environmental issues such as land degradation, loss of biological diversity and stratospheric ozone depletion, threaten our ability to meet the basic human needs in adequate food, water and energy, safe shelter and a healthy environment. To address these challenges, it is important to integrate the issues of climate variability and climate change into resource use and development decisions. Decreasing the vulnerability of agriculture to natural climate variability through a more informed choice of policies, practices and technologies will, in many cases, reduce its long-term vulnerability to climate change. For example, the introduction of seasonal climate forecasts into management decisions can reduce the vulnerability of agriculture to floods and droughts caused by the El NiƱo-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomena.

In order to address the challenges facing sustainable agricultural development, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) gives priority to the timely and effective implementation of some of the activities of its World Climate Programme, in particular the Agricultural Meteorology Programme and the Climate Information and Prediction Services (CLIPS) project, to ensure that progress made in the seasonal to interannual climate prediction is translated into field applications to ensure food security. In this regard, the Commission for Agricultural Meteorology (CAgM) of WMO has recommended that weather and climate forecasts should be increasingly tailored towards the requirements of agriculture in order that farmers can make their decisions with greater confidence.

The Climate Prediction and Agriculture (CLIMAG) interdisciplinary project was established in 1998 with the goal to demonstrate the practical utility of climate forecasts in agricultural decision-making. CLIMAG builds on the advances made in several areas especially in the science of climate forecasting, downscaling large area climate forecasts to local applications, integration of climate forecasts in operational crop models to develop alternative scenarios for operational decision making, and capacity building at the local level in all these areas. Needless to say, there are numerous challenges in all these areas.

The use of climate information and prediction products in planning agricultural activities has become very useful in some parts of the globe especially developing countries, as was demonstrated by the CLIMAG pilot projects carried out in South Asia and West Africa over the past four years.

Furthermore, the Global Change System for Analysis, Research and Training (START) initiated the Advanced Training Institute on Climatic Variability and Food Security in July 2002 to equip young professionals from developing country with expertise in agriculture and food security to apply advances in climate prediction to their home institutions' ongoing efforts to address climate-sensitive aspects of agricultural production, food insecurity and rural poverty. Following this training institute, seed grants were provided with funding from the Lucille-Packard Foundation for follow-up project work on aspects of climate and food security in 14 countries.

It is with this background that, WMO, START and the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI) organized an "International Workshop on Climate Prediction and Agriculture - Advances and Challenges" from 11 to 13 May 2005 at WMO in Geneva, Switzerland. The main objective of this workshop was to review advances in the application of seasonal climate prediction in agriculture over the past 5 years, and identify challenges to be addressed in the next 5-10 years to further enhance operational use of climate prediction in agriculture in developing countries.

Prior to the International Workshop, participants in the David and Lucille Packard Foundation-funded project on climate variability and food security were convened at a "Synthesis Workshop of the Advanced Institute on Climatic Variability and Food Security" from 9 to 10 May 2005 at WMO in Geneva to present their results, share their experiences, and synthesize lessons learned. The workshop was made possible through generous support from the Packard Foundation, the Asian Pacific Network (APN), the Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research (IAI), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/Office of Global Programs (NOAA/OGP), the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs (DGIS), the International START Secretariat (START), the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), and the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI).

This volume, which brings together the papers presented at the International Workshop and the Synthesis Workshop, presents a good synthesis of the advances made so far in seasonal climate predictions and their applications for management and decision-making in agriculture, and identifies the challenges to be addressed in the next 5 to 10 years to further enhance operational applications of climate predictions in agriculture, especially in the developing countries.

We hope that this volume will serve as a major source of information to all services, agencies and organizations at national, regional and global level involved in promoting operational applications of climate predictions in agriculture.

(M. Jarraud) Secretary-General World Meteorological Organization

(Roland Fuchs) Director International START Secretariat

(Steve Zebiak) Director General The International Research Institute for Climate and Society

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