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Climate services


Climate information services (CIS) equip decision-makers in climate-sensitive sectors with better information to help them adapt to climate variability and change. Providing climate information services to national and regional stakeholders and decision-makers at the farm-level is one of the overarching goals of climate risk management.   

The main climate services supporting the agricultural sector are:

  • Seasonal climate forecasting
  • Climate change projections
  • Statistical assessments of the future frequency of extreme weather and climate events
  • Agrometeorological crop monitoring
  • Agrometeorological advisories

CIS are emerging alongside the digital turn of agricultural systems which is set to fundamentally transform every part of the agrifood value chain through data. Climate services support the transformation towards more productive, safe and anticiptory systems which are adapted to the consequences of climate change with the goal to enhance food security, profitability and sustainability.

But despite a strong increase in research and the global recognition of the benefits of climate services for managing climate risk and adaptation, there is still a significant gap between suppliers and users of climate services. Existing climate services often do not reach the final user and when they do, are not tailored to user's needs. FAO's work with climate services therefore focuses on reaching the last mile: bringing information to the end-user (farmers, pastoralists, fisherfolk).

 

Participatory Scenario Planning (PSP) exercise with a Farmer Field School as part of the Agricultural Climate Resilience Enhance Initiative. PSP strengthens the collective interpretation, ownership and practical application of seasonal advisories and climate forecasts, which are translated into local languages.

Benefits of climate services for farmers


Because of the way greenhouse gases interact with natural climate variability, farmers experience climate change not as a gradual trend but as changes in the frequency and intensity of extreme events.

Climate services can help farmers prepare for extreme events as well as cope with more common and familiar disturbances. Within an enabling environment, climate information and advisories allow farmers to understand risks, anticipate and manage extreme events, take advantage of favourable climate conditions, and adapt to climate change. Increasing investment in the quality and relevance of climate-related information is expanding the range of options available for making smallholder agriculture more resilient and prosperous in the face of climate risk. 

By raising awareness of potential climate outcomes, climate information can help farmers mitigate adverse impacts by improving decision-making about specific crops, the timing of planting, and fertilizer application, with multiple co-benefits from reducing fertilizer use, improving the efficiency of water allocation, reducing soil erosion such as reduced planning time, workload, or improved nutrition. Climate services can contribute to land management decisions outside of the agricultural sector as well, thus improving the management of protected spaces and water resources.

There is strong evidence to support co-production as an effective and important overarching principle in addressing these challenges, from the perspectives of producing information that is salient as well as building trust, confidence, and ownership of information with decision makers.