Communication Education and Training

Communicating drought information especially to remote rural populations is a major challenge for drought monitoring and prediction in Africa. Without access to reliable communication networks, the vast majority of Africa's farmers and herders do not have available the scientific and technological advances that support agricultural decision-making in richerr parts of the world. Boulahya et al. (2005) working with the African Centre of Meteorological Applications for Development (ACMAD) and herders and farmers designed the RANET system. Named for its innovative linkage of radio and Internet, RANET brings new communications and information technologies together with the oral traditions of Africa to deliver scientific drought information over a distributed network owned and managed by local communities. RANET combines data from global climate data banks in the United States, seasonal rainfall predictions from the international scientific community, data and forecasts generated in Africa, along with food security and agricultural information, to disseminate a comprehensive information package via a network of digital satellite, receiving stations, computers, radio, and oral intermediaries. This is one very effective method for the communication of climate information and forecasts to rural communities, especially in Africa.

Agricultural meteorologists are concerned with many operational aspects of the effects of climate on livestock and crop production. For them to continue to make a contribution to the economy of a country they must continually sharpen their skills and remain updated on the latest information available. Walker (2005) recommends that training should include a variety of skills including transferable skills (e.g., communication, numeracy), professional skills (including cognitive skills) and information technology skills. Problem-based learning can be used to promote critical thinking, decision making and analytical skills. More use should be made of Computer Aided Learning for agricultural meteorologists' in-service training. In particularly the Internet or CDs could be used to disseminate specific recently developed techniques and applications to improve the understanding of the variability in the climate and its effect on agricultural production. Computer-aided learning is becoming more accessible and user-friendly. New modules are continually being developed, and this method of learning will always expand. It is becoming an essential learning tool for agricultural meteorologists. Examples that can address the vulnerability of farmers include crop-climate matching, the use of indices, crop modelling and risk assessment together with seasonal outlooks. A strategy needs to be formulated to address these farmers' needs and implement changes in the education and training of agricultural meteorologists.

There is also a requirement to form a network for filling the gap between state-of-art development and operational use in agrometeorological services. This can be done by the establishment of a Regional Meteorological Training Centre (RMTC) where agrometeorologists can enhance their information technology skills because of increasing demands on climate and agronomic data for climate analysis at the regional scale, the inevitable use of computer technologies such as simulation models and GIS, and the need for agrometeorological information sharing among countries for sustainable agriculture.

Finally, any education and training programme for agricultural meteorologists must include practical applications oriented toward the unique local situations, and, ways and means to maintain good services to the public despite constantly changing circumstances.

0 0

Post a comment