In the last week of November the WaterApps project team came together in Khulna, Bangladesh. The visit included a seminar day with presentations on the project progress and climate variability in the area as well as day of field visits. One of the visitors was Spyros Paparrizos, post-doctoral researcher at Wageningen University. He supports the PhD students working in the project in their on-going research.
Spyros and the WaterApps team have been busy over the past year. This visit was organized to share the insights from the project so far with the participating farmers, researchers and other interested parties and to make a first evaluation of the project in Bangladesh.
After a night of travelling, Spyros arrived in smoggy Dhaka, Bangladesh on the 23rd of November. The weather was a positive shock. When he left the Netherlands it was freezing cold at only 4°C and the 30°C humid weather of Bangladesh almost felt like ‘home on a rainy day’ for our Greek researcher. A plane and a bus later he arrived at the final destination, Khulna, ready for the seminar to start the next day.
The participants of the WaterApps seminar, including local farmers, the host university professors, part of the project team from the Netherlands and other experts and interested people.
Prof. dr. Dilip Kumar Datta, warmly welcomed the participants to the WaterApps seminar at Khulna University and after which PhD researcher Uthpal Kumar kicked off the content based part of the seminar.
Uthpal explained his research and the coproduction of climate services that is central to the WaterApps project. Within the scope of the Waterapps project and his research topic, Uthpal has initiated Farmers Field Schools with local farmers where they work together on interpreting weather and climate data and how to incorporate all this information into their daily agricultural decision making. The forecast posters used in the climate service lessons were spread around the room to illustrate his work. He was followed by Spyros Paparrizos, on climate variability in Khulna and Fulco Ludwig on climate services and agriculture and the work of the WaterApps project in Bangladesh.
Researcher Spyros Paparrizos presenting on climate variability in Khulna, Bangladesh
When Spyros showed that annual precipitation in Khulna could increase 30-40 % by 2100, this triggered an interesting question from the public. “Why are you talking about precipitation and not rainfall?”. Actually the term precipitation includes hail and snow as well as rain, and Khulna experiences hailstorms. If we use the word rain this does not include everything we mean to include, even though it is a more understandable word. Only the question here is: should the researcher use the simple word, or should he be more correct and use a less understandable word? Choosing words carefully is only one of many challenges the WaterApps researchers face in the co-creation of climate services.
On the second day Spyros, and the rest of the visitors, joined Uthpal in the field. They saw the enthusiasm of the farmers firsthand. The team was ceremonially decorated with flowers and shared poems and artwork about the project and even a painting of Uthpal, who conducted the local fieldwork.
This visit and consecutive days of project group discussions, were used to make a fist evaluation of the effectiveness of the project.
One of the Farmer Field Schools initiated by PhD researcher Uthpal Kumar, this particular session included an evaluation of the school and this part of the WaterApps project.
The farmers sat together for one of their last climate service school sessions and it became crystal clear that they see the value of climate and weather information. This is seen in their practical examples. One farmer said “This year we seeded Boro-paddy 15-days ahead based on information provided through the project and we were able to catch-up with cold conditions on time. This would not have been possible without the forecast information”. Another farmer mentioned “I prepared the land for seeding but then the forecast showed the cyclone so I didn’t do the seeding so I saved vegetable cultivations”. And another saved money by not using fertilizer the day before forecasted heavy rain. These are fundamental decisions the farmers can now make because of their access and understanding of forecasting information.
Because they see the practical relevance of the information the farmers are eager to share their knowledge and expand the project. “I own a Tea-shop besides being a farmer and I act as an informant since I am member of the Field farmer school”, “I think Extension officers should disseminate forecast to other villages”.
After a short but successful week of workshops, discussions, field visits and nice spicy food, it was time to go back to the cold winter of Wageningen. The enthusiasm of the farmers and the feeling that a project can really make an impact inspired Spyros and the WaterApps team will definitely fuel their future work with this project.
The WaterApps team and other visitors are welcomed with flowers by some of the local farmers who are participating in the Farmer Field School