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The three case studies focus on drought and associated famines in various parts of Africa over the past decade or so. Droughts in 1983-1984 and 1991-1992 were both described as unusual or the worst to affect the subcontinent in the twentieth century (Rook, 1997). It is remarkable that, despite serious reductions in harvests, widespread hunger was averted, at least in 1991-1992, a fact largely attributed to the

TABLE 7 Users and Potential Applications of Climate Forecasts

Potential Application of Forecast

TABLE 7 Users and Potential Applications of Climate Forecasts

Potential Application of Forecast

Type of User

Multiyear Forecasts

Seasonal Forecasts

Within Season

Benefits

Commercial

Capital and land

Acreage planted; planting

Water management;

Increased certainty and reduced

producers

investment

dates; crop/variety

application of inputs;

risk; improved financial

selection; water

harvest dates

viability; long-term survival;

management

enhancement of comparative

advantage

Subsistence

Limited, possible

Planting dates; crop/variety

Limited

Improved food security in poor

producers

diversification and

selection

years; improved marketable

off-farm savings

surpluses in good years

Agricultural

Plant and capital

Product selection; sales

Adjustments to marketing

Improved financial viability;

support

investment; research

forecasts; pricing policy

strategy

ability to respond better to

services

and development

farmers' requirements;

priorities; location

recovery from drought

decisions; production

strategies

Agricultural

Promotion of drought

Preparation of climate-specific

Specific adjustments to

Better extension service to

extension

mitigation strategies;

extension advice to

earlier extension

subsistence and smallholder

services

development of

subsistence and

messages and advice

producers

improved extension

smallholder producers

advice

Source: After Gibberd et al. (1996).

Source: After Gibberd et al. (1996).

TABLE 8 Utility and Requirements for Seasonal Forecasts for African Agriculturists

Farm Type

Weather

Subsistence Transitional Commercial.

Decision

Required Lead Time (months)

Required Precision/ Accuracy" (%)

Drought

Overall quality of the rainy season

Onset of planting rains

Nature of early rains

Beginning of midseason drought

Length of midseason drought Severity of midseason drought

End of rainy season

Plant or not plant; choice of crops and tillage; contingency plans for livestock and water Choice of crops, crop varieties and tillage; irrigation planning to use impounded water efficiently; arrange seasonal credit

Timing of field operations; expectation of yield where correlated to planting date Whether to risk dry planting, depending on frontal, widespread rainfall or convective, isolated, discontinuous rainfall Choice of variety and planting date Choice of crop

Preparing to divert grain crops to fodder Timing of harvest operations; possibility of late catchcrops; planning postharvest tillage

60 60

(continued)

Farm Type

Required Lead

Required Precision/

Time

Accuracy"

Weather

Subsistence Transitional

Commercial.

Decision

(months)

(%)

Amount of winter rains

Plan summer crops for optimum

6

80

winter cereal crop; possibility

of other winter crops

Distribution of winter rains

Level of inputs to invest in winter

1

60

crop

First frost date

✓ ✓

Planting date for late planted

6

80

crops; cut-off planting date for

frost-sensitive crops

Last frost date

Date of winter cereal planting to

6

80

avoid frost at anthesis;

planning spring plantings

under irrigation

Frost frequency over winter

Preparedness for frost on winter

1

40

horticultural crops

Dry season severity

✓ ✓

Off-season farm capital

1

40

development; livestock

management

Dry season length

✓ ✓

Disposal of crop residues; fodder

1

40

rationing to livestock;

livestock mobility and sales

Above-normal summer

Precautions in dairying and

3

6

temperatures

horticulture

Below-normal winter

Precautions in small stock and

3

40

temperatures

horticulture

"Precision/accuracy: 100% completely reliable, 0% same as no forecast. Source: Based on Gibberd et al. (1996).

"Precision/accuracy: 100% completely reliable, 0% same as no forecast. Source: Based on Gibberd et al. (1996).

rapid responses instigated by regional early warning systems (e.g., Betsill et al., 1997).

The effects of climate, and in particular climatic hazards, depend very much on the socioeconomic vulnerability of the population. The use of climate prediction is also related to vulnerability, both in terms of direct effect and in terms of how easy it is for a given group to access climate predictions and respond to them. Building institutional capacity to provide medium-term climate forecasts to enhance adaptive resource management in Africa would be a major step forward both in achieving present development aims and in preparing for climate fluctuations and change. Research on how to disseminate information and ensure it is applicable at the household level is also crucial.

Recently, increased attention has been paid to the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon and its links with climatic hazards throughout the world, such as droughts in Africa (Glantz, 1997; Wolde-Georgis, 1997). A great deal is being done on the physical side of climate prediction; however, there is a "major gap in the application of research findings" (Glantz, 1997). Improved communications between the climate community and communities dealing with food security, such as famine early warning systems, are needed. For example, forecasters need to be explicit about the spatial and temporal resolution and confidence limits of predictions (Farmer, 1997).

However, an effective climate forecast and use system is not in itself sufficient to bring about increased food security. The forecasting process tends to focus on natural determinants of famine and tends to distract attention from other factors that shape societal and household vulnerability. "There is frequently a danger that forecasting can become an end in itself, detached from many of the social processes that give rise to hunger and starvation" (Tapscott, 1997).

Would better forecasts have altered the outcomes in Kenya, Botswana, and Sudan? The answer depends on how the political economy would have adapted to widespread dissemination of forecasts (and other data on climate and production). Good forecasts, in each case, would not by themselves have been sufficient to ensure early responses, to bolster sustainable livelihoods, and to prevent vulnerable populations from being displaced.

There is a need to ensure that agricultural development occurs in such a way that longer-term sustainability, and not short-term production maximization, is the aim (Rook, 1997). Climate predictions can help in this aim, but other social, economic and political factors must also be considered.

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