Workshop Summary

tte presentations and the discussions during the six technical sessions of the workshop could be summarized under the following headings:

• Risk in agriculture

• Risk and risk characterization

• Approaches for dealing with risk

• Risk coping strategies

• Perspectives for farm applications

• Challenges to coping strategies

Risk in Agriculture tte global food and fiber system — from the producer to the final consumer -- is subject to a wide range of risks and uncertainties (Menzie 2007). For example, in the South Pacific islands there is little forestry, and traditionally agriculture has been based on subsistence and cash crops for survival and economic development. Subsistence agriculture has existed for several hundreds of years and is subject to weather and climate risks.

Risk in agriculture can be broadly defined into several categories (USDA 2006). ttese include: yield risk, production risk, price or market risk, institutional risk, human or personal risk, and financial risk, tte relationships between weather, climate and production risk are well recognised (George et al. 2005) and Hay (2007) provided excellent examples to illustrate the strength and importance of these relationships.

Risk due to weather and climate extremes is larger in some regions of the world than others. According to Mukhala and Chavula (2007), in sub-Saharan Africa, 90% of agricultural production is rainfed which makes agriculture susceptible to inter-annual rainfall variability, tte main climatic characteristics in South America, during the El Niño event, are frequent anomalies (Velazco 2007). Together with an increase in the temperatures in the western coasts of the Pacific Ocean, it modifies the atmospheric circulation patterns, pressure, precipitation, river discharges and the water level of the lakes. El Niño causes above normal rains, and droughts in several places, tte El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) provides a large source of seasonal to interannual variability across the southwest Pacif ic region, with significant influences on weather and climate extremes, including floods and droughts and warmer and cooler seasons at higher latitudes (Trenberth and Caron 2000). According to Salinger (2007), ENSO events can bring drought and widespread decreased precipitation anomalies over the Philippines, Indonesia, northern and eastern Australia, the subtropical Southwest Pacific and the north east of New Zealand. Increased precipitation occurs in the equatorial Pacific from Kiribati (west of the Date Line) through to the Galapagos Islands. El Niño events produce widespread impacts on communities across the Southwest Pacific, as documented by the 1997-98 event (Shea et al. 2001). Drought severely affected Fiji, Papua-New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tonga and the Marquesas Islands of French Polynesia, tte reverse anomalies occur in La Niña episodes, tte Inter-decadal Pacific Oscillation (IPO) (Trenberth and Hurrell 1994; Deser et al. 2004) is also an important source of multidecadal climate fluctuations in southwest Pacific and causes shifts in climate across the region. Brunini et al. (2007) discussed the complex nature of drought in Brazil, tte high frequency of drought occurrence in Brazil is associated with the frequency of the El Niño/La Niña phenomena in the east-central Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean dipole.

While yield risk, and its impact on the producer, is the first and most recognized source of uncertainty, myriad related impacts affect economic conditions throughout the marketing chain. All factors must be considered when estimating global supply and demand (Menzie 2007). Price and income effects stemming from a particular set of meteorological conditions in a given crop cycle can also influence cropping patterns in subsequent crop cycles, ttese influences must be factored into the global supply and demand estimates. In order to highlight the scope of the potential impacts of meteorological events on global supply and demand, Menzie (2007) presented an excellent summary of the implications of a hypothetical drought affecting the soybean crop in the western U.S. Corn Belt.

Risk and Risk Characterization

Risk considers not only the potential level of harm arising from an event or condition, but also the likelihood that such harm will occur. Climate anomalies and extreme climatic events both dominate the challenges for coping with agrometeoro-logical risks and uncertainties.

Risk has both natural and social components, tte risk associated with weather and climate for any region is a product of both the region's exposure to the event (i.e., probability of occurrence at various severity levels) and the vulnerability of society to the event, ttis aspect was elaborated by Wilhite (2007) in his excellent analysis of the drought hazard and societal vulnerability. While drought hazard is a result of the occurrence of persistent large-scale disruptions in the global circulation pattern of the atmosphere, vulnerability to drought is determined by social factors such as population changes, population shifts (regional and rural to urban), demographic characteristics, land use, environmental degradation, environmental awareness, water use trends, technology, policy, and social behavior. For example, Velazco (2007) explains that in South America, vulnerability is aggravated because of the location of human activities in some places of great risk, natural resources subject to excessive pressure of poverty, lack of environmental management policies, excessive centralization, little agricultural technology, and lack of education of the population to prevent and face risks.

Much of the agricultural activity in the poorest and marginal countries takes place in high risk environments and the extreme poverty makes people very risk averse. Ravallion (1988) explains that two of the most widely accepted stylized facts about agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and elsewhere are that income is highly uncertain from one year to another and that deep and widespread poverty exists. Under such circumstances, producers often avoid activities that entail significant risk, even though the income gains might be larger than for less risky choices, ttis inability to accept and manage risk and accumulate and retain wealth is sometimes referred to as the "the poverty trap" which fosters hopelessness and insecurity.

To facilitate exit from poverty traps, it is important to reduce exposure to risk through improved tools for managing risk, tte ex ante approaches here involve diversification opportunities, information systems, preventive health care, mobility and stabilization while ex post approaches are primarily through safety nets. In most developing countries, livelihoods are not insured by international insurance/ reinsurance providers, capital markets, or even government budgets. Without access to credit, risk-averse poor farmers are locked in poverty, burdened with old technology, and faced with an inefficient allocation of resources.

Agrometeorological risk and uncertainty permeate the entire marketing system with far-reaching consequences. Menzie (2007) explained that in order to optimize business decisions relative to these risks and uncertainties for every economic agent within the global agricultural production and distribution system, accurate, timely, consistent, and widely available information is essential, ttis information requirement can be met in part through periodic review and estimation of global supply and demand for agricultural commodities.

Approaches to Dealing with Risks

As Hay (2007) explained, there is a well established approach to characterizing and managing risks, ttis includes risk scoping, risk characterization and evaluation, risk management and monitoring and review.

In risk scoping, risk reduction targets and criteria are established through a consultative process, involving stakeholders as well as relevant experts, as required (Hay 2007). In risk characterization, scenarios are developed in order to provide a basis for estimating the likelihood of each risk event, for present conditions and into the future if change is anticipated, for example as a consequence of climate change (Hay 2007). tte consequences of a given risk event are quantified in terms of individual and annualized costs, tte overall findings are compiled into a risk profile.

tte efficient management and planning of agricultural activities requires policies and tools that allow communities to face agro-meteorological risks and uncer tainties. Velazco (2007) described a number of such policies and tools. Farmers have many options for managing the risks they face, and most use a combination of strategies and tools. Some strategies deal with only one kind of risk, while others address multiple risks. Most producers use a mix of tools and strategies to manage risks. Since the willingness and ability to bear risks differ from farm to farm, there is usually variation in the risk management strategies used by producers (Hay 2007). Preparedness planning, risk assessments, and improved early warning systems can greatly lessen societal vulnerability to weather and climate risks.

tte goal of effective risk management is to impose management and policy changes between hazard events such that the risk associated with the next event is reduced through the implementation of well-formulated policies, plans, and mitigation actions that have been embraced by stakeholders. An important point to remember is that food security and weather risk management are inextricably linked: weather risk management, or the lack of it, determines the level of systemic risk in the food security system (Mukhala and Chavula 2007). tte exposure to weather risk drives overall food insecurity.

Maracchi et al. (2007) discussed the potential for the use of seasonal forecasts in water and crop management as a fundamental tool to avoid serious health problems. tte importance of sea-surface temperatures to force the long-term atmospheric anomalies at the regional scale has led to the development of a large number of model simulations, i.e., Global (GCM) or Regional (RCM) circulation models. As a result, weather predictions today are established on solid theoretical and practical bases, and their reliability and accuracy are steadily increasing, ttese forecasts of future trends in precipitation three months or more in advance could be extremely important to agriculture, forestry, and land management by potentially forecasting drought or heat waves, for example, ttese outlooks have strategic relevance to national policy with respect to planning to help alleviate food shortages, lessen the impact of droughts, and provide distribution of energy.

Enterprise diversification, vertical integration, contracting, hedging, liquidity, crop yield insurance, crop revenue insurance and household off-farm employment or investment are some of the useful approaches in dealing with risks. Over many years, crop insurance had been one of the approaches to dealing with risks. In India crop insurance was considered by the central government as early in 194748. tte National Agricultural Insurance Scheme (NAIS) had been in operation since 1999-2000, and at present, is implemented by 19 States and 2 union territories (Chattopadhyay and Lai 2007).

Weather derivatives and weather index insurance play a role in developing agricultural risk management strategies. Weather based index insurance is slowly gaining recognition as one of the methodologies that can be used sustain livelihoods and reduce poverty as part of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Examples from Malawi and Ethiopia described by Mukhala and Chavula (2007) illustrate the potential for this approach.

Menzie (2007) points out that accurate, timely, consistent, and widely-available information is essential to optimize decisions relative to these risks and uncertainties within the global agricultural production and distribution system. He presented several examples of the meteorological tools and methods of crop assessments typically used in developing monthly world agricultural supply and demand estimates at the United States Department of Agriculture.

Risk Coping Strategies

Velazco (2007) recommends that in order to better cope with weather and climate risks, the agro-economic planning at a short and long term and at a local, regional or national scale, should be formulated more rationally including among its variables, the agro-meteorological and agro-climatic information. For the developed countries (e.g Australia, New Zealand) coping strategies are more sophisticated and involve both structural and non-structural measures to reduce the impacts of change on crop and livestock production (Salinger 2007). In these countries it will be the rate of change that will pose the risks.

Huda et al. (2007) outlined approaches to cope with integrated pest management risks, based on the Australian experiences with wheat and canola. Collaborative activity is essential between scientists, risk managers, government, and local farmers to determine best practice approaches for addressing pest management, in order to achieve economically sound and ecologically sustainable outcomes. A major focus of Australian research is the optimization of natural controls relating to informed planting strategies, and the minimization of pesticide application through the prediction of climatic influences, which can in turn lead to the optimal effectiveness in the control of disease agents, tte relationship between meso- and microclimate, and the effects on the cycles of disease agents needs special attention if quantity of applied pesticide is to be minimized, while optimizing disease amelioration outcomes.

Brunini et al. (2007) explained that the mitigation measures for drought must take into account the cultural aspects of the population, the climate regime, and the agricultural development. Various indices have proven adequate for monitoring and mitigating drought effects; however, adjustments are necessary for each of these indices for each region and by crop. Hence, Brunini et al. (2007) emphasized that it is important for researchers and specialists from all disciplines to work together to cope with the drought phenomena.

Wang et al. (2007) reviewed strategies to cope with desertification, illustrating numerous cases in China. Some structural measures include biological, agronomic and engineering measures. Non-structural measures for combating desertification involve desertification monitoring of meteorological conditions, research on the relationship between climate and drought occurrence, development of desertification as well as combating countermeasures, and agrometeorological information services in decision-making to cope with desertification.

Tibig and Lansigan (2007) reviewed seven types of management strategies to cope with risks and uncertainties in agrometeorology. ttese include: optional use of resources (crop diversification); use of appropriate cultivars (varietal diversification); improved cultural/farming practices (organic farming and flexible calendar to fit weather/climate, i.e., farm afforestation, land topography change); local indigenous knowledge (coping mechanisms of farmers to various environmental and natural challenges); technological innovations (direct seeded rice (DSR) cropping system to increase net income); and, farmers can opt to reduce their production area if conditions warrant.

Doraiswamy et al. (2007) discussed intervention management techniques for the farming systems to help minimize soil erosion and soil loss from excessive surface water runoff. Coping strategies to reduce risks and uncertainties in crop production related to soil management practices include tillage, the crops cultivated, sequence of cropping with cover crops planted where possible, the use of crop residue, and development of mechanical barriers to slow down the runoff over sloping landscapes, tte specific strategy suitable for a particular site would depend on many factors such as landscape characteristics, soil properties, rainfall patterns and intensity, and adaptability of soil and crop management practices in the region. Developing a proper combination of these strategies based on a good assessment of the problem is critical for a successful implementation of coping with risks and uncertainties in crop production, ttese methods need to be adaptable for worldwide application.

Perspectives for Farm Applications

One of the major constraints for farm applications of agrometeorological risks such as droughts is that in general there are no operational procedures to forecast the impending drought conditions with respect to area of impact, extent and duration. Stigter (2004) showed that the main bottlenecks here were insufficient considerations of the actual conditions of the livelihood of farmers and therefore the development of inappropriate support systems.

Eitzinger et al. (2007) reviewed the key points to optimization of farm technologies for both high input agricultural systems and low input farming systems. Proper management of resources is essential to sustain agricultural production within specific agro-ecosystems. Production variability depends directly upon weather and climate variability, water availability, soil nutrients, crop management and microclimatic conditions, tte combination of locally adapted traditional farming technologies, seasonal weather forecasts and warning/forecasting methods may help farmers improve productivity, food production, and income.

Stigter et al. (2007) discussed information needs and demands for four different rural income groups in China, ttey reviewed the socio-economic levels of farmers in China and India, the implications for information approaches and technologies, and their needs for capacity building for agrometeorological services, and presented some brief examples of these services in Cuba, Nigeria, Sudan, and Vietnam, tte authors emphasized the utmost need for "middle level" intermediaries who work as two-way guidance between the providers and users of agrometeorological data and services. While reports on using new technologies and pilot projects offer some promising results, lack of resources and skills have prevented significant technological progress in most rural areas of many developing countries.

Lee (2007) proposed an Emergence Response System (ERS) in agricultural management to be considered as an on-farm application for decision-making support system (DMSS) against agricultural hazards.

Challenges to Coping Strategies

In the south west Pacific, climate and extreme climatic events dominate in providing challenges for coping with agrometeorological risks and uncertainties (Salinger 2007). Tropical cyclones are one of the most devastating risks for agrometeo-rology on the small island developing states in the region, ttese generally cause large scale destruction to crops and infrastructure through high intensity rainfall and severe winds.

Governments often undertake emergency operations as part of their coping strategies with natural disasters, tte primary objectives of the emergency relief response mechanism is to undertake immediate rescue and relief operations. As Rathore and Stigter (2007) explained, the mechanism requires planners to identify disasters and their probability, evolve signal/warning mechanisms, identify the activities and sub-activities, define the level of response, specify authorities, determine the response kind, work out individual activity plans, have quicker response teams, undergo preparedness drills, provide appropriate delegations and have alternative plans.

Uncertainties in agrometeorology are part of everyday farmer conditions and Stigter et al. (2005) have, for example, extensively dealt with traditional methods and indigenous technologies to cope with such consequences of climate variability, ttat such variability is increasing makes it more important to improve and extend the mitigating practices involved and pay attention to farmer innovations and to products from NMHSs, research institutes and universities that can be absorbed by farmers to better cope with increasing uncertainties and disasters.

Lee (2007) explained that there are numerous challenges to an operational ERS, including: establishing and maintaining observing systems and data management systems; maintaining archives, including quality control and digitization of historical data; obtaining systematic environmental data for vulnerability analysis; and, securing institutional mandates for collection and analysis of vulnerability data. Other issues for consideration include communication systems, early-warning and dissemination to the farm communities.

According to Wang et al. (2007), while progress has been made, there are still serious challenges in coping with desertification. Global climate warming, frequent and severe drought, and future climate uncertainties will continue to influence desertification. At the same time, human-driven factors leading to deteriorating vegetation in sandy areas are exacerbating desertification. Combating desertification requires vigilant monitoring research between climate and desertification occurrence, and, measures for ecological restoration.

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