The Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York

Climate Services to Transform the Lives of Vulnerable Smallholder Farmers

Lead Organization

The Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York

New York, New York, United States

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To learn more about – or provide significant funding to – this project, please contact Lever for Change.

Project Summary

Climate risk is a formidable obstacle to improving the lives of the half billion smallholder farmers worldwide. We will develop innovative climate service solutions that support 10 million smallholder farm households (representing 50 million individuals) to manage risk and transition toward more food-secure and prosperous livelihoods. Our approach will give farmers a voice in climate services, build the capacity of national institutions to provide actionable climate information, develop scalable processes to deliver services to rural populations, and integrate climate services into agricultural value chains. By the end of the project: seven countries (Ethiopia, Rwanda, Senegal, Ghana, Vietnam, Lao PDR, Cambodia) will deliver innovative climate service solutions for their agricultural sectors; and 10 million farm households and the institutions that serve them will use those services to manage risk – leading to measurable food security and livelihood improvements for one million households (5 million individuals).

Problem Statement

The world’s nearly 600 million smallholder farmers, who account for the majority of the work force in most developing countries and produce about 80% of the food consumed in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, are among those most at risk from the impacts of variable and changing climate. Climate change is intensifying climate risks and increasing the frequency and severity of extreme events such as drought, flooding and heat waves. Extreme events trigger short-term coping strategies that erode farmers’ capacity to build a better life tomorrow by depleting their productive assets and human capital. The resulting uncertainty is a disincentive to investing in agricultural innovation. Within farming communities, impacts are borne disproportionately by poor and marginalized members and by women. Farmers and the institutions that serve them need support to understand, anticipate and manage climate risks. They need effective climate services. National Meteorological Service (NMS) are charged with providing weather and climate information for economic sectors and the public, but in most countries climate services are poorly aligned with farmers’ needs and woefully underdeveloped. Widespread weaknesses include:•Meteorological station gaps and data policies that restrict the use of local historical data;•Entrenched seasonal forecasting conventions that constrain their usability;•Inadequate mechanisms for delivering relevant climate services to farming populations;•Weak capacity of farmers, and the institutions that support them, to engage and influence climate service providers.The urgency of the challenge calls for aggressive action to address long-standing obstacles to meeting farmers’ climate services needs at scale.

Solution Overview

In seven countries in Africa (Ethiopia, Rwanda, Senegal, Ghana) and Southeast Asia (Vietnam, Cambodia, Lao PDR), we will work with government, private sector actors and civil society (e.g. farmer organizations) to create innovative, sustainable climate service solutions that will be used by 10 million smallholder farmer households, and measurably improving the food security and livelihoods of one million households (5 million individuals) within 5 years. A phased approach, tailored to country context, will first align our work with country priorities and what is already in place; then build the necessary capacity to implement, deliver and use effective agricultural climate services; and finally institutionalize successes within and beyond host countries.The process for developing climate services solutions will include:•Building farmer capacity to use climate information, and participate in an ongoing process to improve services;•Building NMS capacity through staff/leadership capacity development, enabling access to global information resources, and implementing technology to deliver tailored climate services;•Developing effective service delivery mechanisms by developing complementary institutional, broadcast media and ICT channels in collaboration with national agricultural extension services, NGOs, and private sector partners;•Embedding climate services in agricultural value chains, engaging appropriate value chain actors to bundle climate services with input supply, financial and technical support services for farmers; and with efforts to link farmers to markets. Evidence of benefit will foster national commitments to enabling policies and institutional arrangements that sustain project successes. Successes will be extended beyond target countries through regional and global engagement processes.

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Project Funders

  • Columbia University/Columbia World Project 2018 - 2022
  • CCAFS 2019 - 2021
  • USAID Rwanda Mission 2015 - 2019

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