Cambodia, Laos, Bangladesh and India are among the Asian countries most vulnerable to climate change. For these countries there is a high exposure to climate risks (such as increased flooding in lowland areas, increased number of extreme weather events, as well as shifts in seasonal weather patterns). The transitory state of farming societies in these nations further amplifies their extreme vulnerability to climate change; it impacts on smallholder households to reduce the productivity of their farming systems. As well, farmers have a weak capacity to implement effective adaptation programs and there is a lack of robust multi-scale adaptation strategies at the policy making level. This project aims to develop strategies that enable policy makers to deliver more effective climate adaptation programs relevant to farmer livelihoods and food security. At the same time the scientists will help to build capacity of farming households in selected regions of each of the four countries, enabling them to adapt their rice-based cropping systems to accommodate climate variability and climate change.
The project commenced in 2010 with a series of inception workshops held in all four partner countries. The five main domains of activity in the first year comprised:
1. Assessments of adaptive capacity and household surveys to determine farming systems typologies
2. Refinement of APSIM-ORYZA to improve modelling of rice-based farming systems
3. Training of research teams in project research methodologies
4. Establishment a range of on-farm experiments to validate APSIM-ORYZA and to evaluate adaptation options
5. Engagement with key stakeholders and policy makers
Good progress was achieved in the development and application of the project methodological framework that links social research with biophysical research. This has fostered a number of science impacts. Presentation of the integration framework in invited papers at two international conferences generated positive reactions and discussions with a number of institutions engaged in adaptation research and development.
The project’s significant effort in social research over the past year has prepared a robust base from which we will develop more effective adaptation strategies that take into consideration the broader livelihoods context of smallholder households. The livelihoods trajectories research carried out in India has highlighted the need to differentially engage with different household types to tailor information to their specific needs (e.g. large farmers may likely be seeking advice on labour saving management options; small farmer tend to place a stronger emphasis on reducing risk associated with use of inputs). This research also has further sensitised the project on the issues of equitable access to information, e.g. engaging with women.
Research results from all four countries are illustrating major, rapid change in rural communities, driven more by other drivers of global change (markets, urban migration, resource depletion) than climate change per se. Two of the many facets of this dynamic are the increasing ‘feminisation’ of agriculture and the increasing shortage of labour in rural communities. These changes will have profound effects on which types of farming households we should select as target groups, and what might constitute feasible adaptation options.
Work on refining APSIM has established that APSIM-ORYZA is now sufficiently robust to start modelling rice cropping systems with a high degree of confidence. This has spurred renewed interest in APSIM as a platform of choice for crop systems modelling in Asia (as opposed to single crop modelling) and a journal paper describing APSIM-ORYZA’s performance has been prepared for submission to the European Journal of Agronomy.
Training in a range of methodologies has been a major emphasis of the project team’s activities in the first year. Apart from the immediate application of these methods in the project, there are already examples of capacity building enabling some partners to apply newly acquired skills in other domains of their work. For example the three week intensive training course in farming systems and modelling in April 2011 has provided a sound modelling capability in three of the four partner countries. Feedback from the course was very encouraging and it is very likely that the capabilities developed will find applications beyond the project.
Despite delays in the project start, on-farm experimental plots were established in all four countries in time for the 2010 wet season and during the dry season 2010-2011. In some cases these plots were designed to initiate on-farm testing of adaptation options (India, Cambodia and Bangladesh); in some cases the primary purpose was to collect local APSIM benchmarking datasets (Lao PDR).
To maximise the project’s future impact in the policy domain, the project team has developed stakeholder engagement plans in each country. Team members are regularly engaging with a range of critical stakeholders. Key institutions have been briefed on the project and invited to provide input into project directions on policy input and advice.
Early community impacts can be expected in India and Cambodia. There is evidence that Indian farmers accessing the agro-met advisories have started to make changes to farm management practices associated with crop protection and fertilisation (i.e. short term, tactical management decisions, commensurate with the 3-5 day forecast timeframe). In Cambodia, the 2010 wet season has provided evidence of the superior performance of a range of improved rice management options, including use of improved (shorter duration) varieties and changed N-fertilisation regime (deep-placed urea pellets). The Cambodian NGO partner IDE will start incorporating these options in its training program of Farmer Business Advisors, who will then become potential agents of change in villages other than the project study villages.
Exposure of UNDP stakeholders to the project’s adaptation research approach has resulted in the UNDP inviting the project to contribute to the Technical Background Report underpinning the next Human Development Report. This as an important entry point into further discussions with organisations like UNDP on better design principles of donor-funded adaptation programs, specifically in Cambodia, but potentially also in Lao PDR and Bangladesh.
A highlight of this reporting period is the synthesis of socio-economic data into household typologies, providing the basis from which detailed household types were developed in each country. A common template was applied in all countries, combining survey and adaptive capacity data and developing adaptation strategies likely to be relevant to each particular household type. In briefings and workshops, stakeholders in all countries have expressed strong interest and support in the concept of tailoring adaptation strategies and practices to the socio-economic and biophysical conditions of different household types.
A methodological framework has been developed to match secondary (statistical) data to these locally household typologies to identify and test where else they are relevant and applicable at a district level. This up-scaling framework was considered at annual meetings in each country in early 2012. This activity will be the main focus of the socio-economic team over the next 6 -12 months.
Validation of APSIM in new environments continued during the reporting period. The model has now been validated for the Cambodian, Bangladesh and Indian study sites, improving the capacity of the model to accurately simulate crop production at these sites. Modelling teams have begun scenario analyses for selected adaptation strategies and in the next year, will be investigating the long term performance of existing and improved rice cropping systems under current climate variability and future climate change projections.
Work on the ORYZA model focussed on modifications to represent abiotic stresses such as drought, establishment of field experiments to represent the effects of salinity in the model and the development of software that enables any future, updated version of ORYZA to communicate with other modelling platforms - meaning that any future improvements to ORYZA will be readily available to APSIM users. In addition, results from previous modelling using high quality IRRI datasets (in particular, the role of algae in rice crop nutrition and soil organic carbon maintenance; and transitions between flooded and non-flooded environments) have been published.
On-farm testing of adaptation practices constituted a major effort across the project in the reporting period. The 2011-12 wet season was the first in which a full complement of on-farm trials was implemented. Results were generally constructive and have provided lines of further enquiry into adaptation practices farmers are likely to adopt. Adaptation practices that were tested successfully include drum seeding and double cropping of rice in Cambodia, critical irrigation in cotton and use of seasonal climate forecasting to improve performance of cotton crops in India and salinity tolerant rice varieties in south west Bangladesh.
Future climate forecasts have been developed for all countries, for a 20 year time period centered around 2030, and comparable 20 year forecasts of present day climate. These forecasts are underpinned by a scientifically robust, rigorous and appropriate method of forecasting data (the Linear Mixed-Effect State Space model), which incorporates the most reliable observational data available, and will be used by project teams in APSIM model simulations.
During the reporting period, the project generated a range of science, capacity, policy and community impacts. Significantly, the project has been selected by the Mekong River Basin initiative as one of ten case studies for a chapter on regional examples of climate change adaptation being prepared for inclusion in the IPCC 5th Assessment Report.
Strategic stakeholder engagement has yielded encouraging results with policy makers in all countries. Examples include: a request to support the Indian Department of Agriculture to implement a program of providing villages in Andhra Pradesh with rainfall gauges and training in use of climate information, reinforcing the relevance of district level agro-advisories already underway; feedback from Cambodian stakeholders acknowledging that the project is one of very few examples in Cambodia of ‘evidence based adaptation’; recognition by Bangladesh stakeholders that the project is producing a framework that can be adopted by relevant Bangladesh groups to extrapolate beyond the study district and a suggestion that a joint workplan be created and presented to donors to support extrapolation; generation of much interest in the development of an agro-meteorology advisory service for Laos, along with recognition of common goals with different approaches, and a commitment to share relevant information.
Examples of community impacts being generated from adoption of the project’s adaptation practices include results from Cambodia suggesting that double cropping of two short duration rice crops will nearly double the yield (4.6 t/ha from two crops) of traditional, single medium duration rice crop (2.5 t/ha on average). Combined with the use of drum seeding, this higher productivity also leads to higher profits, from about 300-400 USD/ha to about 785 USD/ha.
Overall, the project is demonstrating effective approaches to integrate social, biophysical and modeling research within a participatory framework. This is generating a suite of climate-tested and farmer-truthed adaptation practices that will provide a strong evidence base for adaptation strategies in the target areas. In the remainder of the project life, we anticipate that an intensified engagement process to link household level adaptation with policy making will lead to an improved effectiveness of future adaptation programs. The development of household typologies and the definition of household types has proven attractive to stakeholders, enabling them to develop concrete options for each type rather than developing strategies that are too general to have any effect on the ground.
Though the household types demonstrate the potential for more targeted extension, The static snapshot provided by the types is a limitation in the context of rapidly changing environments. However, the household types can be used to spatially extrapolate to largerpolitical units, and provide the basis to develop policy recommendations. On-farm research constituted a significant effort in the first two and a half years of the project. The main rationale for conducting on-farm research was to select and test a range of adaptation practices under farmer conditions that had the potential to help farmers
better manage current climate variability and risk. The on-farm research has delivered some promising options for farmers in all four countries. At the same time, the datasets generated through the on-farm trials were also critical to enable us to parameterise APSIM to credibly reflect local conditions. Practices that have been tested successfully include:
- Drum- and direct-seeding to capture early wet season rains and reduce labour (Cambodia, Lao PDR)
- Opportunistic double cropping of monsoon rice using short duration varieties (Cambodia)
- Improved rice varieties (drought and inundation tolerance, Lao PDR; salinity tolerance, Bangladesh; shorter duration, Bangladesh, Cambodia)
- Strategic irrigation (India, Cambodia)
- Changed planting rules informed by weather observations and Agromet advisories (India)
The emphasis of the modelling in 2012 was to conduct scenario analysis based on the onfarm results using APSIM. The scenarios were benchmarked against historical climate data to ascertain efficacy of current and improved practices in dealing with present day climate variability, as well as future-tested using locally downscaled climate projections for 2030. The majority of evaluated adaptation practices appear to perform as well or better than current farmer practices and seem to offer feasible opportunities for adaptation. Work is still in progress to reduce residual uncertainties in the downscaled future climate projections being used in our simulations. The general trend seems to be that the average 2030 climates do not suggest a major decline in yields. In all countries in a number of cases the modelling is suggesting modest increases in yields, in particular in conjunction with adaptation measures.
Work in Andhra Pradesh has continued to improve the preparation and dissemination of climate information to farmers in three case study villages. Two of the project case study villages (Gorita, Bairanpally) were selected by the Climate Change and Food Security (CCAFS) program and rated as an example of best practice to developing climate resilient villages. As a result of this, the local NGO working in Bairanpally, one farmer from Gorita village and a collaborating researcher from Acharya NG Ranga Agricultural University were invited to showcase the project work in an international CCAFS sponsored workshop held at Dakar. Another highlight was the development of a Rainfall Visualiser in conjunction with advisories, which was found to be a key tool for communicating climate and agronomic advice to farmers. Crop calendars can form the link between farmers perceptions of the season and climate records. The next step will be to integrate the modeling with a process of developing decision trees to help farmers better manage climate risk. Irrespective of our plans to significantly ramp up out scaling and up scaling of project results in the remaining fifteen months of the project, the past year already saw some significant community impacts being realised. In Cambodia, adaptation practices developed by the project are being included in a package of improved farming practices being disseminated across 5 Provinces under the auspices of the IFAD funded PADEE program. Initially, this will extend our work to 40 communes in 2013, with the prospect of reaching out to 250 communes once PADEE has been fully implemented. In Andhra Pradesh, the concept of providing a range of climate information products tied to decision rules that were co-developed by farmers, researchers and extension providers, and the projects experience in facilitating Farmer Climate Clubs to promote exchange between farmers on crop and water management practices has led to the Department of Rural Development supporting the implementation of Climate Information Centres as part of its Integrated Watershed Management Program. Twelve Gram Panchayats have applied for such Centres to be developed in their villages, with a potential outreach to 2300 farmers.