Where Do We Stand

A few exploratory studies have confirmed Sudano-Sahelian farmers' expected interest in climate forecasts, and the determinants of potential response strategies (Ingram et al. 2002; Roncoli et al. 2004). Conclusions substantiate farmers' understanding of uncertainty, risk and opportunities associated with the use of predictions, but also highlight the inadequacy of forecasts which (regardless of skill) do not fulfill their need for estimates of season onset and end dates, time distribution and total amount of rainfall (in decreasing order of priority). Interestingly enough, these studies do not mention the widespread use of PP-sensitive cereals as one central, ingenious and sophisticated strategy to ensure food security even in the most erratic of seasons (National Research Council 1996), and how that practice would interact (or interfere) with the prospective use of seasonal forecasts. This contrasts with the increasing number of promising applications elsewhere, even though most successful cases are confined to regions facing open oceans and displaying high predictability levels such as Australia, Argentina, Florida, Kenya or Southern Africa (Hammer et al. 2001). The difficult challenges of seasonal predictability and agricultural resilience in Sudano-Sahelian West Africa might also explain the local dominance of health-related applications in the Africa Regional Program implemented by IRI and its partners.

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