Challengesand opportunities

Farmers work within an environment characterized by highly variable biophysical, economic, political and institutional conditions, ttey are, thus, exposed to several types of risks which include production risk, yield risk, price or market risk, institutional risk, financial risk and human (or personal) risk (Belliveau et al. 2006). Hardaker et al. (1997) and Harwood et al. (1999) defined these agrometeorological risks as follows:

• Production risk spells the chance in losses in yield due to events beyond the control of the farmer and is often, related to weather, and/or related to technology.

• Price or market risk is the risk associated with changes in prices of outputs or inputs and may include market access.

• Institutional risk relates to changes in government policies which may impose unanticipated constraints on production practices.

• Financial risk results from the way farm's capital is obtained and is related to borrowing, interest rates, the ability to meet payment of debts and also, the willingness oflender to continue lending.

• Human or personal risk is associated with the farmers themselves, their families and any disruption of farm production and profitability in terms oflabor, etc.

Any particular combination of risk-reducing measures can be defined as a risk management strategy. Risk perception is usually the first step in risk management. Individual farmers respond to these risks in highly variable ways, depending on the degree of their exposure and their coping abilities which are influenced by factors such as human and financial resources and networks, institutional support and most often, the quality of the natural resources available.

It is for these reasons that most developing countries, especially those in the tropics and sub-tropics, are almost always the ones who are less able to cope with agrometeorological risks and uncertainties. A majority of farmers from their burgeoning populations do not have access to resources, as they are mostly subsistence farmers, tteir vulnerability to threatened food security, as a result of the external stresses, has become a very important challenge.

However, in some ways, the farmers' environment does not just present risks, but also opportunities to be exploited. For example, variations/changes in climatic conditions could have some beneficial effects. Or some areas in a farm could offer opportunities for cash crop production. Developments in technological innova-

tions coupled with institutional support could lead to farmers using these innovations to not just improve agricultural yields, but also carry ancillary benefits to them and their families, and the environment.

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