Introduction

Climate change and variability, drought and other climate-related extremes have a direct influence on the quantity and quality of agricultural production and in many cases, adversely affect it; especially in developing countries, where technology generation, innovation and adoption are too slow to counteract the adverse effects of varying and changing environmental conditions. The interdisciplinary nature of these issues requires a long lasting and where possible more substantial role for agrometeorology in the efforts to promote sustainable agricultural development during the 21st century. There is a need to develop locally new and better agrometeorological adaptation strategies to increasing climate variability and climate change, especially in vulnerable regions where food and fibre production is most sensitive to climatic fluctuations.

Because of uncertainties associated with regional projections of climate change, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has attempted to assess the vulnerability of natural and social systems to changes in climate, rather than attempt to provide quantitative predictions of the impacts of climate change at the regional level. The range of adaptation options for managed systems such as agriculture and forestry is generally increasing because of technological advances, thus opening the way for reducing the vulnerability of these systems to climate change. Some regions of the world, particularly developing countries, have limited access to and absorption capacity for these technologies. They lack local appropriate information on how to implement them under their conditions. However, innovations from within are of more than equal importance (Salinger et al., 2000). Incorporation of climate change concerns into resource use and development decisions and plans for regularly scheduled investments in infrastructure will facilitate adaptation.

The issues of climate variability and climate change need to be integrated into resource use and development decisions. Climate variability affects all economic sectors, but agricultural and forestry activities are perhaps two of the most vulnerable and sensitive sectors to such climate fluctuations. Agrometeorological services derived from a more informed choice of policies, practices and technologies will, in many cases, reduce the long-term vulnerability of these systems to climate change. For example, the introduction of farmer-oriented seasonal climate forecasts (Lemos at al., 2002) into management decisions may reduce the vulnerability of agriculture to floods and droughts caused by the El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomena.

The International Workshop on Reducing Vulnerability of Agriculture and Forestry to Climate Variability and Climate Change, held in October 2002 in Ljubliana, Slovenia, where the papers in this volume were presented assessed the varying global climates and their likely changing impacts, and examined adaptation options. Resources and strategies, including education and training, in reducing the vulnerability of agriculture and forestry, were also discussed.

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