Planning for a rainy month: How resource-constrained farmers take up climate forecasts

Authors: Chris Knudson*, University of Arizona, Zack Guido, University of Arizona, Jhannel Tomlinson, University of the West Indies, Donovan Campbell, University of the West Indies
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Agricultural Geography, Human-Environment Geography
Keywords: farmers; decision-making; climate change; climate services; Jamaica; vulnerability
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 3:20 PM / 5:00 PM
Room: Balcony M, Marriott, River Tower Elevators, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Climate services are the provision of climate information to enable better decision-making. An increasingly common way to attempt to reduce the vulnerability of farmers in the Global South is to provide the farmers with weather and climate forecasts. However, the utility of such information has not been well demonstrated in the literature. This gap is especially troubling given the ethical issue of providing useless information, and the resources that these activities consume. This paper examines the use of weather and climate information by smallholder Jamaican coffee farmers to reduce their vulnerability to drought and coffee leaf rust, a destructive plant disease. After a series of workshops on climate and coffee management were held between the coffee farmers and extension specialists in six communities in the Jamaican Blue Mountains, the farmers have been receiving monthly seasonal climate forecasts by text message. Drawing on interviews with two farmers from each of the six communities, conducted monthly between August 2017 to January 2018, we are able to understand the on-farm activities the farmers were planning in the coming months, what activities they actually completed, and whether their planning was based on the forecasts. We argue that although farmers struggle to match long-term forecasts with limited abilities to plan for future farm activities, due to labor and material resource constraints, there are significant aspects of their decision-making on their farms that align with the long-term nature of the seasonal climate forecasts.

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