Factors that affect uptake and use of climate information services products by rain-fed farmers in sub-Saharan Africa are complex and poorly understood. Timely delivery of accurate daily and seasonal forecasts to men and women farmers is only part of the challenge. Farmers also need to trust, interpret and transform the climate information into knowledge that they can use to take action—actions that are feasible and affordable. If these factors are not considered in design and implementation of climate information services, the information product may perform well technically, but fail to influence end users’ behavior and deliver tangible results.
Under the USAID Learning Agenda on Climate Services in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Climate Information Services Research Initiative (CISRI) is looking at the user end of climate information to build a knowledge base of factors impacting the uptake and use of climate services. Led by Mercy Corps, CISRI draws on the expertise of its consortium partners: Clark University’s Humanitarian Response and Development Lab (HURDL); Columbia University’s International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI); CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS); World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF); and Catholic Relief Services (CRS)
One stream of work within CISRI investigates how systems mapping can contribute to effective design and delivery of climate information services for smallholder farmers. Mercy Corps leads field implementation of activities in Niger, along with Catholic Relief Services and Practical Action.
Why systems mapping?
Systems mapping produces a quick visual overview on how a system is organized and how information flows within it. Stakeholders can analyze the system critically and identify where blockages and opportunities arise.
As a result, stakeholders can make changes that enable smallholder farmers to receive credible, relevant and timely climate information, which they can then act upon to improve their livelihoods and resilience to climate variability and longer-term climate change.
In Niger, CISRI is developing systems mapping for climate information services by facilitating workshops for national stakeholders including representatives from Department of National Meteorology, Department of Agriculture, Farm Radio International and Niger’s farmers’ unions.
During the workshops, participants identified types and sources of climate information; key actors and how they are linked together; supporting functions which enable the communication of this information to smallholder farmers (such as research, translation and training services); and the factors which create the regulations, policies and social norms that enable delivery of credible, relevant and timely climate information to smallholder farmers. Participants also identified challenges and generated suggestions about how to make the production and flow of climate information more efficient and effective.
Channeling discussion into action
Following the workshops, the CISRI team incorporated participants’ experiences and insights into its approach by widening the range of climate information services stakeholders that need to be associated with the process, identifying issues for further background research, and developing criteria for the selection of communities to be visited.
Next steps for the CIRSI team’s investigation of climate information services systems are to:
- Conduct further research on rain-fed farming systems and use of climate information services in Niger
- Map climate information services systems with smallholder farmers in seven communities in Niger
- Bring together climate information services stakeholders from village to national level to share their needs and challenges, and
- Propose solutions to those who can affect change.
Key forthcoming outputs that will soon feature on the Learning Agenda on Climate Services in Sub-Saharan Africa’s page will include an analysis of the potential for participatory systems mapping to contribute to the effective design and delivery of climate information services for smallholder farmers, and a set of practical tools to enable others to use the approach.
Climatelinks is a global knowledge portal for USAID staff, implementing partners, and the broader community working at the intersection of climate change and international development. The portal curates and archives technical guidance and knowledge related to USAID’s work to help countries mitigate and adapt to climate change.