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WATERAPPscale weather schools: weather and climate information services help smallholder farmers during cyclone Jawad in Bangladesh

Written by: Doctor (Dr) Uthpal Kumar
Published: Monday, January 3, 2022
Thumbnail WATERAPPscale weather schools: weather and climate information services help smallholder farmers during cyclone Jawad in Bangladesh

Winter rainfall is not a common episode in the Bengal Delta. However, smallholder farmers in Bangladesh often lose their ready winter crop (Aman rice) during December-January due to an unexpected cyclonic storm and or extreme rainfall events. Smallholder farmers commented that it has been an annual phenomenon particularly in the coastal area of Bangladesh. They reported that after the extreme winter rainfall of 2018, this year (2021), the cyclonic storm ‘Jawad’ struck the Bay of Bengal adjoining areas mainly in India (Pradesh, Odisha, and West Bengal) and Bangladesh. The weak cyclonic storm Jawad brought heavy rainfall and strong winds during 4-8 December 2021. Figure 1 shows harvested paddy field was flooded while farmers dried the paddy in Comilla Sadar Upazila of Bangladesh.   

Figure 1: Harvested paddy field was waterlogged due to heavy rainfall during 4-6 December 2021 at Sugazi area of Comilla Sadar Upazila, in Bangladesh (Pc- M. Sadik, Source: The Daily Prothom Alo, 8 Dec 2021).  


While cyclonic storm Jawad caused huge destruction of ready Aman rice around Bangladesh, farmers were very happy for saving their crops timely through weather forecast information shared in the weather schools, initiated by the WATERAPPscale project. The farmers in the school have received the weather advisory 3-5 days in advance which helps them to take timely action and climate-smart decision-making. Otherwise, farmers would lose a huge amount of ready rice fields due to the cyclonic storm. The farmers and their peers were stopped harvesting Aman rice and started collecting harvested rice from the fields. The majority of farmers that attended the school also shared the forecast information with peer farmers and relatives face-to-face and through social media, which led to a major reduction of crop damages. Female farmers, on the other hand, gained significant benefits from the forecast information for household activities and crop processing. For example, female farmers did not prepare dung sticks due to rainfall forecasts. Several farmers reported that they covered harvested crops immediately and stopped harvest decisions after getting the forecasts. Farmers who will cultivate HYV Boro rice for the next season were canceled seedbed preparation for boro seedlings. Smallholder farmers also collected extra fodder for their livestock. Finally, farmers commented that through using natural indicators we could not predict winter rainfall in advance. Therefore, scientific forecasts (short, medium, and seasonal) are very crucial for tactical and strategic decision-making in agriculture. Currently, the majority of farmers prefer social media and smartphone-based weather forecasts that could help farmers better prepare for weather emergencies and extreme hydroclimatic events. During the Jawad cyclone, weather school farmers covered vegetable seedbeds with plastic sheets, while others postponed seed sowing in Khulna, Patuakhali, Rajshahi, Mymensingh, Rajshahi, and Sylhet Districts. Finally, local farmers gained confidence in using forecast information through weather schools that reduces the impact of cyclonic storm Jawad.


Figure 2: Meeting (Dec 5, 2021) with WATERAPPscale weather school farmers at Solari village in Khulna, Bangladesh. Discussion held on Cyclone Jawad advisory, farmers preparedness status, and disaster risk reduction smallholder farmers (PC- Uthpal Kumar).


For more information – uthpal.kumar@wur.nl