mercredi 09 mars 2016 - 17:30 : Climate Change and Variability: Challenges for the Effective Adaptation of Agriculture

Dans le cadre des conférences de la Faculté des Sciences

This presentation is based upon 25 years of research into the adaptation of agriculture, principally in Quebec, Canada, to climate change and variability. The research methodology while is has changed somewhat over this period, has been essentially interdisciplinary (rather than multidisciplinary) linking methodologies from the natural sciences, agronomy, agricultural economics and social sciences. Specifically the research has been based upon the construction of climate scenarios and how these affect the yields of different agricultural crops in different territories; the modeling and the results have been regularly tested by asking groups of farmers in the different study areas to comment on the reasonableness of the modeling scenarios based on their experience and their knowledge of their territories. In the last 18 years, this approach was enriched by the use of extensive and unique data on the claims by farmers under the crop insurance program in Quebec, provided by the Agricultural Financial Corporation of Quebec. This substantially helped the farmers in the studies to appropriate the realities of climate change and variability for farming as the data analyses covered from 25 to 30 years and the changes since the late 1990s in terms of claims made by farmers for crop losses due to extreme climate conditions were very real. The methodologies also included: 1. focus group discussions with groups of farmers and also with groups of professionals associated with agriculture in Quebec (the Ministry of Agriculture, agronomists, and representatives from the Agricultural Financial Corporation of Quebec as well as from the Quebec Farmers Union; 2. interviews with samples of farmers in an attempt to better understand their decision-making processes and the importance given to climate change and variability; and 3. modeling the effects of climate change and variability and of different adaptation strategies for “model” farm types.

The first challenge in terms of adaptation to climate change and variability is for farmers to appropriate the reality of this phenomenon. This was achieved gradually using the techniques noted earlier in this abstract. Other challenges relate to the fact that farmers have to face multiple stressors (including opportunities) that affect their decision-making process and also to the fact that these stressors are not the same in each territory. This also means that helping farmers to increase their capacity to adapt to climate change and variability requires recognition of these territorial differences and this in turn means that senior governments (the central state and provincial governments) are limited in what they can contribute to increasing the adaptive capacity of farmers. Our results confirmed this many times and also underscored the importance for farmers in the study areas of other sources of information (their own Advisory Clubs with their own professional specialists, as well as private sector companies who often provide not just inputs to farming but also advice). The 25 years of research presented also emphasizes the importance of co-constructing any programs and initiatives to increase farmers’ adaptive capacity since it is clear that senior governments do not always command the respect of farmers and they frequently do not have the necessary knowledge base. One of the most recent analyses in the 25 year long research program stressed the importance of using the “theory” of the diffusion of innovations to better understand how farmers perceive and integrate (or not) different adaptation strategies to better cope with climate change and variability.