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A Systematic Approach to Climate Services for Agriculture: The AgMetGaps Project

This post was originally published on Climatelinks and was authored by Joslin Isaacson. In this post, Isaacson highlights the USAID-funded AgMetGaps project.

Variability in temperature, rainfall patterns and other weather and climatic conditions have long been major challenges for the agricultural sector. Farmers today must often make decisions regarding what, when and how to plant based on increasingly unpredictable conditions. Increased seasonal variability can leave farmers unprepared for shocks during bad years and inhibit their ability to take advantage of good conditions during favorable years.

The availability and application of reliable, geographically specific resources such as forecasts on temperature, precipitation and extreme weather events allow farmers and other agricultural stakeholders to reduce these risks.

USAID’s investments in climate services empower farmers to make more informed management decisions. However, in order to get the highest return on this investment, there is a need for rigorous methods to find the locations with the best potential yield.

To tackle this challenge, the AgMetGaps project, funded by the USAID Global Climate Change Office and Bureau for Food Security and led by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), has developed a context-specific, demand-driven, systematic and innovative approach to climate services.

At the March Adaptation Community Meeting, USAID Adaptation Advisor Kevin Coffey and CIAT Senior Scientist Steven Prager provided insight into how AgMetGaps enables the right type of climate information to reach the right hands. The project uses science-driven and participatory processes to ensure that investments in climate services are sustainable and economically efficient. Working directly with local stakeholders in the design, production and implementation of climate services from the onset greatly improves stakeholder buy-in and the relevance of AgMetGaps outputs.

AgMetGaps uses geographic analysis to identify locations that would benefit from climate services through a process called “hotspot analysis.” Hotspots meet several conditions such as strong forecast modeling capabilities and exposure to crop yield variability resulting from temperature and/or precipitation.

Climate services hotspots for rice (red indicates areas that would most benefit from climate services). The AgMetGaps Hotspot Analysis helps to identify where climate services have the potential to work.
Steven Prager/CIAT

A hotspot analysis of rice production, for example, identified Colombia as having variable rice yields due to fluctuating temperatures and/or rainfall, along with the capacity to produce high quality seasonal forecasts. This combination of identified climate risk and an enabling factor such as institutional capacity allowed for a positive impact on rice yields when climate services were introduced.‬‬‬‬

Once a hotspot has been located, a mapping process is used to understand who is involved in climate-related decisions, the type of information that flows within its specific context, the sources of information and how it is used. By pinpointing how different individuals and institutions receive information, AgMetGaps is able to identify both gaps in the flow of information to end users and opportunities to close those gaps.

Based on these findings, AgMetGaps is able to develop a context-specific approach to the integration and implementation of climate services that is rigorous, efficient and relevant to the types of decisions agricultural stakeholders need to make. Further, the project focuses on locations that are most likely to be cost-effective and have the highest potential for achieving an impact for years to come.

Joslin Isaacson is a communications advisor on the USAID ATLAS project.

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