Participatory Integrated Climate Services for Agriculture (PICSA)


Problem that technology is supposed to solve :

- Helping smallholder farmers to adapt to, and cope with, climate change and variability, a key global challenge.
- PICSA provides information on key challenges i.e. in this case climate and weather, and this includes not just forecasts but also historical climate information. 
- Improved information, understanding and analysis of climate in-formation is of limited value without exploring the practical actions farmers can take. 
- Lack of access to inputs and lack of technical knowhow.

Technical characteristics of the technology :

PICSA, a novel extension and climate information services approach, makes use of historical climate records, participatory decision-making tools and forecasts to help farmers identify and better plan. livelihood options that are suited to local climate features and farmers’ own circumstances
PICSA is built around the following elements and principles: 
Supporting farmers as decision makers to make their own choices and plans (and does not seek to provide advisories/recommendations); 
Making available locally specific historical and forecast information and the tools to interpret them; 
Facilitating the consideration of a range of locally relevant ‘options’ for crops, livestock and/or other livelihood enterprises, as well as specific management practices; 
A set of participatory decision-making and planning tools to help farmers identify the options that are most suitable for them. 
PICSA emphasizes ‘options by context’ i.e. the recognition that each farmer operates within his own biophysical and socioeconomic context and that different options will be appropriate for different contexts.

Economic characteristics of the technology

- Acquisition cost :

In evaluation at the moment.

- Economic profitability :

- Farmers found PICSA approach very useful by most as it stimulated them to consider and then implement a range of innovations. 
- Implementing PICSA at large scale has the potential to reduce production risks faced by smallholder farmers, as has been achieved in several countries in Africa.
- The approach entails a new way of doing extension and communicating with farmers.

- Comparative advantage :

PICSA differs from conventional climate information service which tends to start with seasonal forecasts arriving just before the season. 
In PICSA, historical climate records are used to help describe and understand the climate and in particular the variability, or change in the amount of rainfall and/or in temperature, and to calculate simple probabilities/risks of occurrence of climate events (given amounts of rainfall, start and end dates of the rainy season, length of growing period, risk of dry spells or extreme rainfall) which are discussed with farmers in combination with various livelihood options (agriculture, livestock and other livelihoods) avail-able for adapting to their local climate.
Livelihood options are also jointly analyzed with farmers in terms of effectiveness and applicability (required re-sources) while they still have time to plan and prepare for the season.
By making use of local historical climate records, PICSA also helps improve the understanding and use of seasonal climate forecasting information by the extension agents and consequently the rural farmers; as it provides locally relevant figures rather than relying solely on qualitative words (below normal, normal, above normal, etc.) used in the seasonal climate forecast.

Limits of the technology :

An issue that might hamper the implementation of PICSA in some localities is the lack of historical climate records due to the poor coverage in terms of climate information recording equipment. Initiatives that seek to improve data availability.  

By filling spatial and temporal gaps in climate observation through combining ground station data with satellite proxies (such as Enhancing National Climate Services ENACTS) may offer means of addressing this.