Data and local knowledge – key to climate resilience

By Elise Belcher
18 October 2023


A new GNDR project is empowering farmers in Indonesia by bridging the gap between native know-how and climate science. 

As part of our Local Leadership for Global Impact project, we facilitated a two-week learning exchange between a climate scientist and two farming communities in Gunungkidul, Indonesia.

In the two sub-villages of Ngoro Oro and Watu Gajah, farmers engage in diverse agricultural activities, including growing cash crops, rearing livestock, and cultivating timber trees on hilly and rocky terrain. Their livelihoods heavily depend on successful agricultural practices, making it essential to incorporate climate change considerations into their decision making processes.The project has shed light on the value of collaboration in addressing the effects of climate change on agriculture. “Analysing rainfall data together and engaging in group discussions highlighted the significance of local knowledge in guiding farmers’ planting decisions,” says climate researcher Dr. Thomas Wijaya. “Traditional indicators like pranoto mongso, a Javanese seasonal calendar, and natural signs such as thunder and specific plant growth patterns, proved instrumental in determining the appropriate time for planting.”

However, in the course of the exchange, Wijaya recognised the impact of rainfall variability on crop productivity. Farmers lack access to crucial climate information from agencies like the Badan Meteorologi, Klimatologi dan Geofisika (BMKG), the government meteorological agency.

The outcome of our project has been a proposal for civil society organisations (CSOs) to bridge the gap between meteorological agencies and farmers. Acting as intermediaries, CSOs could rewrite scientific information from meteorological agencies like BMKG in simple and accessible language for agricultural communities. By translating complex scientific data into practical terms – such as forecasts for earlier rainy seasons or the severity of droughts due to La Nina or El Nino – CSOs can empower communities led approach.

In Cambodia, Yein Kreal, a council member from Tamaeun commune in Battambang province, experienced firsthand the positive outcomes of our project. Previously affected by floods and droughts, his community successfully restored a 750-metre canal with support from GNDR and Church World Service, an NGO. This reduced the impact of floods, improved access to water, and enhanced climate resilience for the community.

As governments and development actors implement the global recommendations of our report, we hope that community-led resilience building will continue to shape national and international disaster risk reduction efforts.

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