A Weather Website For Laotian Farmers

Partnering with the Laotian government, researchers have developed a weather website that helps farmers adapt to climate change and fight food insecurity.

Asian Scientist Magazine (Sep. 20, 2022) —A research team under the DeRISK Southeast Asia project, which develops climate risk management systems, has introduced an ICT-based agrometeorology platform called the LaCSA, or the Laos Climate Services for Agriculture system. The platform was created in partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organization.

The platform works as a numerical weather prediction system from the Laos Department of Meteorology and Hydrology. LaCSA covers weather observations from the past seven days alongside detailed 72-hour and seven-day forecasts, as well as a three to six month seasonal forecast for temperature and rainfall.

With LaCSA, the DeRISK team aims to solve long-standing issues in institutional coordination, particularly between agriculture and meteorology ministries, and to provide better weather monitoring services to farmers so they can improve their agriculture. To date, the LaCSA has been used by over 110,000 farmers in Laos—a number that, researchers hope, can help protect the vulnerable agricultural sector against the worsening effects of climate change, and more broadly, ensure food security in the Southeast Asian country.

The research team began by surveying data from accessible government reports to better understand the roles and responsibilities of different departments. They also investigated the availability and accessibility of climate services data and the inter-institutional arrangements that make up agrometeorology services in Laos. Crucially, the researchers studied the inter-institutional barriers to the co-development of climate services. To do that, the team also sat down with high-level administrators and officials from government offices before the LaCSA launch (to be able to tailor the platform to their needs) and afterwards (to see the impact of the co-creation process).

Following the launch and capacity-building sessions among the different stakeholders, the team found that LaCSA was able to establish the necessary two-way connection needed between Laos’ agricultural and meteorological sectors—a connection that ultimately benefits farmers and local communities.

For DeRISK Laos Country Coordinator and study co-author Leo Kris Palao, an ICT-based platform allows for better coordination. He said that the ICT-based platform empowers government agencies and actors to regularly and effectively coordinate the information supply chain and update agricultural recommendations.

Farmers who can access the internet can receive these reports directly from LaCSA, while village loudspeakers, radio, field schools, TV, and posters have been deployed for those who can’t. With these results, the hope is to apply a similar top-down, ICT-based approach to other developing countries, as climate change threatens to reverse recent development gains in Asia.

To do that, the researchers point to a few key lessons. These lessons include the importance of early buy-in for policymakers, who are integral in ensuring inter-institutional collaboration. Next is the importance of regular co-training for the meteorological and agricultural sectors, allowing leaders and staff to not only increase their knowledge and capacities, but to also bring their own expertise to the table in the co-creation process.

The researchers also point to the importance of easy-to-use data management processes and standard operating procedures for staff time and budgets, which can ensure smooth communication and project sustainability.

For Palao and the DeRISK team, these learnings can be used to develop scalable climate services platforms that promote climate resilience in Asia.

“The sectoral arrangements, bottom-up approach, and inclusive dissemination strategies are just among the key takeaways that the Alliance learned, which can be leveraged in developing inclusive, relevant, and transparent systems for climate services,” said Palao.

Source: Seoul National University; Image: Freepik

The article can be found at: Information and communication technology-based service platform enabling the co-creation of agrometeorological services: A case study of the Laos Climate Services for Agriculture

Asian Scientist Magazine is an award-winning science and technology magazine that highlights R&D news stories from Asia to a global audience. The magazine is published by Singapore-headquartered Wildtype Media Group.

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