Consolidated Responses for the PAFPNet Discussion for the month of March 2015

Date: 10/03/2015 – 27/03/2015

"Vulnerability of Pacific Agriculture and Forestry to Climate Change"

The PAFPNet topic for the month of March, "Vulnerability of Pacific Agriculture and Forestry to Climate Change" modelled five questions for the discussion forum. Each question encompassed similar responses in relation to the stability of agriculture and forestry to the change in the climatic state. Members of the network discussed both the positive and negative impacts of climate change on land produce and various ways to incorporate traditional knowledge and practices. Additionally, PAFPNet associates mentioned the importance of climate information being simplified and translated for both subsistence and commercial farmers.

Climate change plays a major role in the production and variation of agriculture and forestry produce. Climate change is known to affect the characteristics of natural resources that are necessary for farming practices. As a result of changes in the climate, plants and animals alike are forced to adapt to the new settings. Therefore, farming systems that incorporate climate change resilient practices should be adopted.

Numerous threats on agriculture were discussed as a result of climate change. Extreme weather conditions was labelled as one of the greatest risks to agriculture. Increased frequency and intensity of drought was highlighted as one of the key factors to crop degradation. Flooding was also mentioned as a significant issue because of the build-up and spread of soil diseases such as the rotting of roots and nematodes. Additionally, the salinity accumulation in soil stemming from floods was pinpointed as one of the many negatives effects on PICTs food sources especially for small islands and atolls.  Moreover, changes in climatic conditions like that of the environmental temperature were also discussed to favour large outbreaks of known pests and diseases as a result of the subtle shifts in the bio-dynamics of the ecosystem.

Members also shared their different views on traditional knowledge regarding agriculture and weather/climate information which involves the knowledge passed on from generations before. Communities to date still use some form of traditional indicators of weather and time.  To list a few traditional climate information shared from the discussion, had mentioned that during a cyclone in Vanuatu, if a black sea bird was seen flying, it indicated the cyclone nearing an end soon. Also, in Samoa, Savaii, a change in wind direction coming over the mountains was seen as a strong indication that a cyclone was developing. Given what the members had noted down during the exchange, traditional knowledge is still held in high esteem for climatic changes and disaster preparedness.

Traditional approaches are developed over a long time frame with adaptive features to the local environment. It is vital that traditional methods are not discarded, rather adjusted to when dealing with climate change. Agroforestry practice was identified as a means to stabilize the impacts of climate change. Likewise, traditional agroforestry was mentioned to pave the way to building more resilient communities to combat the negative effects of the changes in climate. However, traditional agroforestry practices have now been perceived to be almost non-existent to date. A solution to promote this approach via workshops and trainings was suggested. This would ensure that this knowledge is collected, stored and packaged to be disseminated to the interested parties and safeguarded for the younger generations benefit.

Furthermore, information related to climate and weather conditions and its readings should be converted to help provide support to the work of farmers in both the agriculture and forestry sector with the aim of receiving the maximum value of work supplied by farmers. Dialogues on this topic stated that there needs to be a steady existence of communication channels in order to help integrate and maintain information from the Meteorological office and community level development plans.

Finally, most members in their various areas of expertise had discussed and described their working relationship with their various Meteorological services as solid. This relationship has opened up great opportunities for both interest groups and has provided a wider platform of understanding between agriculture/forestry and its relevancy to climate change.

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