Feed the Future
This project is part of the U.S. Government's global hunger and food security initiative.

Highlights from the February Ag Sector Council Seminar: Climate Change and Agricultural Extension

The February 20 Ag Sector Council was a momentous occasion – it marked the 4th anniversary of Ag Sector Councils.  Over the years the Seminars have become a much-loved event in which food security professionals from all over the world come together to learn about the latest in agriculture-led food security.  Participation has grown over the years, and with a full house in person and more than 100 participants online, this Ag Sector Council was one of the largest to date.

Click here to acess the event resources, including the policy brief, webinar recording, transcripts, and audio files.

This month’s seminar featured Brent M. Simpson, Associate Professor in the Department of Agriculture, Food and Resource Economics at Michigan State University and Gaye Burpee, Catholic Relief Services’ Senior Advisor on Climate Change and Rural Livelihoods for Latin America and the Caribbean. The seminar was originally scheduled for October 31 but had to be rescheduled due to Hurricane Sandy – a point not lost on either of our presenters, who gave talks on adapting to the new normal of an abnormal climate.

Brent Simpson began the talk with some context on the big picture: given an ever increasing world population and demand for food and increasing amounts of energy and water associated with food production, what will happen to yields as the climate continues to warm? Simpson presented lots of evidence that painted a rather glum picture for the future of the world’s agriculture. He noted that "things will never go back to the way they were," and that extension agents must both mitigate and adapt to the reality of a changing climate.

Gaye Burpee continued the conversation with some in-depth investigation into the effects of a changing climate on Central America. She stated that suitable bean and maize production areas will both decrease dramatically over the next 40 years, and identified adaptation spots, hot spots and pressure spots to help extension agents identify which strategies to use when working with farmers (adaptation, transition, or spreading awareness of deforestation, respectively).

The talk concluded with a number of best practices/recommendations for extension agents in the field. They included the following:

  • Establish close working relations with research programs
  • Seek interventions that capitalize on multi-win, no regret options
  • Enhance technology transfer capabilities
  • Identify different ICT applications for different target audiences
  • Upgrade pre-service education and in-service training programs
  • Conduct organizational reviews on core roles and responsibilities
  • Balance policies and investments

The in-person presentations were only half the story this month, as over a hundred people also participated online. Several participants reported watching the webinar in groups (and we can only imagine the conversations they were having offline!), while many others shared climate data sources, examples of ICT technologies, and stories from their own experiences working in the field.  Several connections were made between participants who were using similar strategies to engage farmers, either through technology or the local universities. We look forward to hearing how you all followed up with each other post-seminar in the chat box of the next Ag Sector Council Seminar! A summary of the resources identified in the chat box are listed below. 

Additional resources from the online chat:
Chasing Ice film
The IRI/LDEO Climate Data Library
Climate Wizard
ICT to Enhance Impact of Agricultural Development
ICT for ag toolkits
Nutrient Management Decision Tools
Hadisi & Ismael - film designed to inspire young people to invest in agriculture
Digital Green

 Webinar participant map

A map of webinar participants over the last four years.