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Workshop kickstarts study to evaluate the socio-economic benefits of weather and climate services in Pakistan

Vijay Khadgi & Mandira Singh Shrestha

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We have partnered with the University of Leeds and the Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) to evaluate the socio-economic benefits of weather and climate services in Pakistan. An inception workshop for the related survey was organized virtually due to restrictions on physical movement amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

Together with the University of Leeds and the Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD), we have initiated work on evaluating the socio-economic benefits of weather and climate services (WCS) in Pakistan. Under the UK Aid-funded Asia Regional Resilience to a Changing Climate (ARRCC) programme, we designed a survey to better understand the user landscape. Our intent has been to get a sense of which groups use PMD’s WCS and which ones do not, and examine farmers’ perceptions of the services in terms of how useful and usable they are. Specifically, we have sought to evaluate the efficacy of the agro-meteorological advisories PMD shares with cotton and wheat farmers in the agricultural provinces of Punjab and Sindh.

Rising temperatures, untimely rainfall, increasing magnitude and frequency of flood events, and prolonged droughts have threatened the productivity of these major crops as well as the national economy and food security. Our survey-based evaluations will determine the net benefits of using WCS by comparing the perspectives of users and non-users of WCS over a production season.

We organized an inception workshop on 30 March 2021 to introduce the study and solicit feedback on the survey questionnaire from stakeholders – line agencies, members of the academia, researchers, agrometeorological experts, and representatives of farming communities. Due to restrictions on physical movement amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, we organized the workshop virtually.

Speaking at the event, PMD’s Director General, Muhammad Riaz, said that the accuracy and reliability of medium- and long-range weather forecasts must be improved to support farmers and policy makers to plan production and imports. South Punjab’s Additional Secretary for Agriculture, Barak Ullah, added, “Last mile connectivity is essential to ensuring that smallholder farmers can benefit from weather and climate services.”

Our Director General, Pema Gyamtsho, emphasized the increasing significance of WCS for individual farmers as well as for countries. He added that regional cooperation across the Hindu Kush Himalaya provided an opportunity to improve WCS saying, “WCS is an important means to help farmers adapt to climate change in the immediate and long terms. Regional cooperation among hydrometeorological authorities is crucial in developing capacities and sharing knowledge for improving WCS.”

Participants observed that while agromet advisories are useful, their uptake is constrained since both data literacy and outreach to small farmers are limited. Workshop attendees suggested that the incorporation of farmers’ feedback and the strengthening of local-level partnerships may help improve the advisories. Furthermore, they noted that agriculture extension departments could play a critical role in helping farmers understand the advisories.

These discussions and deliberations helped ensure that the survey would take cultural sensitivities into account. A specific note from the participants was that the survey should include questions targeting women’s empowerment, given the extensive roles women play throughout agricultural cycles. Since women farmers and youth, in general, have limited access to agromet advisories, the participants suggested that customized and targeted trainings be designed to help marginalized groups understand and use such advisories effectively.

 

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