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Climate Information: Learning Natural Signs Like a Farmer – Indonesia

Yen lemahe wis empuk, tangane megar” is one of the local wisdom which is still widely accepted by farmers in Ngoro-oro sub-village, Giriasih village, Purwosari district, Gunungkidul to determine when the planting period begins, whether the soil is soft from the rain, then it’s time to work. Farmers use the knowledge from generation to generation by paying attention to soil moisture where if rain soaks the soil to a depth of 1 hoe (30 cm), farmers will start sowing seeds. However, erratic rainfall makes it difficult for farmers to predict the right time to start sowing.

Climate change impacts society and increases the risk of hydro-meteorological hazards such as floods, cyclones, droughts and landslides. For farmers, climate change is also impacting their agriculture and threatening livelihoods. The La Nina phenomenon which has been occurring since September 2022 and which is expected to last until March 2023 causes very heavy rainfall and has an impact on agricultural production. This information was discussed during the learning exchange between the community and climate researchers. As part of the Local Leadership for Global Impact programme, the Global Network of Civil Society Organizations for Disaster Reduction (GNDR) facilitated a 2-week learning exchange between climate researcher Dr Thomas Wijaya and two farming communities in Gunungkidul, the Ngudi Mulya Farmer Group in Ngoro-oro sub-village and Melati Women Farmer Group (KWT) in Watu Gajah sub-village – two farmer groups supported by the unit of emergency YAKKUM (YEU).

Basically, this activity was carried out to gather local knowledge on how communities manage the environment and understand climate change and its consequences. Not only with communities, knowledge exchange was also achieved with local actors such as civil society organizations and governments. It is about reflecting and supporting actions to tackle climate change, as well as documenting evidence that the exchange of knowledge from diverse actors can lead to effective solutions to tackle climate change.

Through this activity, groups of farmers who were initially unfamiliar with climate-related terms such as La Nina have become more aware of them. The dialogue on local and scientific knowledge reinforces the wisdom of the local community to be friendly and to protect nature. Some farmers use local knowledge and natural signs, such as the sound of thunder, a suweg plant that grows and gives off a foul smell, a kapok tree that loses its leaves, etc., to determine the start of the planting season.

Farmers are also familiar with the traditional pranata mangasa calendar system where planting should start in “kapat” or October. Some farmers are also used to using smartphones to exchange information, including with agricultural extension agents. However, farmers generally do not download the BMKG (Meteorology, Climatology, and Geophysical Agency) application for weather forecast or agriculture-related information, such as the KATAM (Integrated Planting Calendar System) developed by the Ministry of Agriculture. Agriculture. Climate-related terms and information should be disseminated among local communities through various channels ranging from radio to smartphones.

The results of the discussion between the community and the climatologists concluded that local knowledge increases the community’s sensitivity to the natural environment and is important in combination with scientific knowledge. It is important that the risk information from the BMKG is translated into simple and practical language for farmers and local actors. This is where field workers from government agencies, NGOs, researchers and community organizations can play a role in transferring information.

Apart from smartphones, farmers are also familiar with rain gauges. In Purwosari sub-district, there is only one rain gauge. The Ngudi Mulya farmer group was trained and installed a simple shadow meter on their farm. However, manual recording is not always routine. For farmers, knowing what will happen and what to anticipate is important to reduce risks due to unpredictable weather conditions.

Local people also protect the forest because they are aware of the function of the forest to store water, prevent erosion and generate income especially for wood. Most farmers in both communities combine cash crops (rice, maize, soybeans, peppers, peanuts) and timber trees such as acacia, teak and mahogany in their fields. These trees are seen as savings that will only be cut down when they need the money. With trees planted on the sides of the land, farmland becomes cooler. Higher temperatures will make plants bloom faster but reduce yields. Ngudi Mulya and Melati were trained to make organic fertilizer from animal waste to increase soil fertility. Animal waste turned into organic fertilizer can minimize methane emissions, as methane is 20 times more dangerous than carbon dioxide.

The results of the knowledge exchange in the community were then shared during the workshop on the theme “Translating climate information for the community” held on October 4, 2022 during a hybrid session at Disaster Oasis Training Centre. This workshop brought together 36 participants from GNDR members and partners in Indonesia. Some of the key points:

  • Analysis of climate data can add insights and guide anticipatory actions for optimal results. It is important to know basic climate information such as rainfall variability, radiation, temperature, wind direction and humidity. This information can be found on the BMKG website, as well as other reliable sources. Additionally, local communities can install tools to measure rainfall such as an ombrometer. The more tools installed at different topographic locations, the more representative the data collected will be. The results of this rainfall record can be used to support decision-making, such as the start of the planting season, types of plants, etc.

  • Integrated management must be implemented to see the actions undertaken contribute to the reduction of emissions. Goat farming, which on the one hand produces high emissions but increases the economy, must be accompanied by emission reduction measures such as the use of manure as fertilizer through an aerobic process.

  • While the role of the climate agency is very important, lack of resources can be a challenge to ensure the public can get easy to understand information. This is where the role of NGOs, civil society organizations and other stakeholders as mediators in translating climate information so that it can be understood by local communities – for example through images , local languages, color visuals, etc. – becomes the basis for making decisions in their lives and livelihoods.

  • Stakeholder mapping is an important step in translating climate information. Different actors will face different impacts of climate change. Women are disproportionately affected by climate change. For this reason, the barriers, challenges and capacities of the groups most at risk need to be identified so that they can be actively involved in mitigation and adaptation actions. Moreover, the actions taken did not put their lives in danger.

Written by Jessica Novia
Edited by Debora Utami