PICSA climate services for smallholder farmers launches in Francophone West Africa

Farmers at Daga Birame examining historical rainfal (photo by Andree Nenkam)

Farmers at Daga Birame, Senegal examining historical rainfall during PICSA field training. (Photo by Andree Nenkam.)

March 2016 saw an exciting new development for the PICSA Climate Services for Smallholder Farmers as training was delivered in French for the first time at a launch event in Kaolack, Senegal.

PICSA – Participatory Integrated Climate Services for Agriculture – is a step-by-step approach for smallholder farmers, originally developed by Dr Peter Dorward, Dr Graham Clarkson and Prof Roger Stern at the University of Reading in the UK working with colleagues in Zimbabwe, Kenya and Tanzania. It puts smallholder farmers in the driving seat and equips them with the tools and information they need to make their livelihoods more resilient to climate.

Smallholder farmers are key to food security across sub-Saharan Africa where much of the population relies on small-scale, rain-fed farming as their main source of food and income. Critical farming and household decisions depend upon how much rain falls, when the season starts, the length of the season and the likelihood and timing of dry spells; all of which vary considerably from year to year.

PICSA couples climate, crop, livestock and livelihood information with tools that farmers can use to decide the best options for them.  It focusses on practical hands-on methods that can easily be picked up and used. The PICSA approach reaches farmers through extension and NGO field staff who are trained in its use. Then, using additional material prepared by their National Meteorological Agency, these trained staff work with groups of farmers to expand the reach of PICSA climate services.

With over 100 million French speakers spread across 24 countries in Africa, developing training in French is a vital step to bring the benefits of PICSA to many more of Africa’s smallholder farmers.

At the end of March approximately 35 staff from government and non-government organisations in Senegal, national research institutes of Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Senegal, gathered in Kaolack for a week’s training in PICSA. The aim was to train front line field staff and their managers so that they can use PICSA with farmers in the communities that they work with in Kaolack, Kaffrine and Fatick regions of Senegal. The new French manual was put to good use and will continue to be as participants roll out the use of PICSA in the coming months. The training was facilitated by staff from the University of Reading, ICRAF and ICRISAT as part of the CASCAID flagship 2 project funded by CCAFS. Also at the training were staff from the Meteorological Organisations of Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger in preparation for CASCAID to introduce PICSA as part of its work in these countries.

As part of the training, the team spent a day with about 60 farmers in Daga Birame in Kaffrine using the PICSA tools and overall approach. Farmers responded very positively.

Dr Jules Bayala, co-leader of CASCAID at the World Agroforestry Centre, says: The level of enthusiasm and engagement of the rural community of Daga Birame is a strong indication that climate information is considered a key input for improved productivity in this climate risk prone environment of West Africa.

Translation of the PICSA manual into French was by Rachel Stern of Incisive Services Group, Andree Nenkam of ICRISAT and Catherine Ky-Demebele and Djibril Dayamba of ICRAF.

Watch the launch of the English version of the training manual>>

Download the training manual (French)>>

Download the training manual (English)>>

The PICSA Climate Services approach for smallholder farmers has been developed with the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) and is working closely with  the UN World Food Programme (WFP) as well as NGOs including CARE International and Oxfam.

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