Weather-related risks are among the most important threats to the livelihoods of Bolivian farmers. Over the centuries, farmers have developed knowledge that allows them to manage these risks through sustainable, agroecological practices. This knowledge is the result of continuous observation, experimentation, and evaluation and has been passed from one generation to the next. However, this system is currently under stress. Over the past 40 years, the Altiplano region has experienced radical changes due to climate and environmental shifts, population growth, and the transition from a subsistence-oriented economy to a market-oriented one. In addition, current farming systems differ from previous ones. Most Altiplano farmers are no longer full-time agriculturalists and have other economic activities. Moreover, school attendance has reduced the on-farm labor contribution of children and youth. These changes necessitate new ways of maintaining and transmitting local agroecological knowledge. A system for weather forecasting is core to the sustainability of Andean agroecological practices.
In previous project phases, the Universidad Mayor de San Andres (UMSA) and the University of Missouri (MU) used participatory and scientific methods to evaluate the reliability and skill of traditional weather forecasting techniques in the face of significant environmental and climate changes. The evaluation of forecasts requires multiple years of data, and the UMSA/MU team has been able to show the effectiveness of traditional seasonal and medium-term forecasts. However, surveys and participatory workshops have also revealed that the use of this knowledge is declining. This finding led to a search for new structures for the generation and transmission of forecast knowledge. The idea of a farmer network that produced and distributed local and scientific forecast knowledge emerged as the best way to reduce the vulnerability of low-income indigenous farmers. The proposed project cannot be carried out without the active involvement and participation of Altiplano farmers and their communities. The co-creation of reliable forecasts and risk management strategies is critical to the sustainability of current agroecological practices and is even more important to the process of agroecological intensification.
Risk management is an important topic in the Andes CoP and is a thematic area in the updated program theory of change of the CCRP, which envisions agroecological systems that adapt to climate change and enhance resilience. Farmers depend on weather and climate forecasting to enable adaptive action. Predicting weather is difficult in the mountains, where weather conditions can differ dramatically over short distances. This proposal also builds on previous accomplishments concerning two methodological approaches for the CCRP: incorporating different types of knowledge and farmer research networks. The proposed project phase represents an important step forward by embedding component work—in this case weather forecasting—within a systems perspective of larger stakeholder groups by working with other projects in the same geographic region of the Bolivian Altiplano. The project’s first phase considered these synergies and facilitated them further during the second phase, positioning the project well to further develop partnerships with the Quinoa and Yapuchiri projects during this phase. These partnerships bring hundreds of new farmers into the network through apps, events, and meetings. These farmers are interested in sharing forecasts as well as options for responding to the forecasts—including ongoing research—and are connected with other farmers through community and kinship ties.
Outputs and Outcomes:
The overall project goal is to reduce the vulnerability of indigenous farmers by creating a climate early warning system and a menu of actions. At least two farmers in each of 15 communities use weather forecasts to plan their agricultural activities and influence their neighbors and producers in nearby communities to do the same. They will also become Internet literate so they can use the network to exchange information about new technologies and production strategies. The effective use of this information will lead these producers and local county governments to invest in the maintenance and operation of these forecast and information systems after the project’s end. Also,the data, models, and methods developed by this project can be used elsewhere in Bolivia and Peru to develop locally based forecast systems to reduce the vulnerability of small producers.Once the network is in place, it can also serve as a monitoring and early warning system for major crop diseases and insect pests.