Friday, 18 December 2015

Participants test out new climate analyser app at workshop in West Bengal, India

A three day training workshop focussing on climate variability and soil water balance to support more diverse and intensive cropping systems on the East India Plateau was held in Purulia, West Bengal in November. The workshop, which ran over three days and involved presentations, ‘hands-on’ sessions and a field trip, and was attended by 16 Professional Assistance for Development Action (PRADAN) Development Executives from Jharkhand, West Bengal, Odisha and two scientists from the Advanced Center for Water Resources Development and Management (ACWADAM).

ACIAR project LWR/2010/082, ‘Improving livelihoods with innovative cropping systems on the East India Plateau’, has supported the development of a daily soil water balance based on field monitoring of soil water in rice-based cropping systems and utilising historical daily climate records. The research has been published in the journal Agricultural Systems, but until now this understanding and expertise has been unavailable to PRADAN professionals working with farmers to develop cropping systems that better utilise available water resources.

David Freebairn discussing output from ClimAnalyser with Ashok Kumar (PRADAN). Source: Western Sydney University
The workshop was facilitated by Dr David Freebairn and Professor Bill Bellotti. Dr Freebairn has extensive experience in developing tools for Australian and Indian farmers to learn about rainfall variability and soil water balance in relation to rainfed cropping systems. Recently he has developed an app for Australian farmers wanting to better understand the chances of receiving rain over a set time. ClimAnalyser has been conceived as a learning tool for PRADAN development professionals to learn about climate variability, soil water balance, and apply this new understanding in their work with smallholder farmers to develop new cropping systems.

Participants heard from a number of speakers including Dr Freebairn who described the background and key features of ClimAnalyser, Ritesh Pandey who described the ‘FLEX’, a crop calendar planning tool, and Siddarth Patel who explained the availability of groundwater for irrigation in the current project’s research locations. The FLEX has already been scaled out to more than 2,000 farmers and we believe there is scope to incorporate ClimAnalyser with the FLEX to provide greater certainty and confidence in planning new crop sequences.  There is also scope to incorporate sustainable groundwater extraction available for irrigation into ClimAnalyser and the FLEX.