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Training Haitian farmers to adapt to climate change

Choice architecture is the design of the ways choices can be presented to people and the impact these presentations have on people’s decision-making. For example, someone’s choice is influenced by the number of options presented, the manner in which attributes are described, and whether a “default” is pre-selected.

An example of a resource allocation map developed during training with extension agents showing what farmers plan or expect to do in the coming season.

An example of a seasonal calendar developed during a training with extension agents showing what farmers plan or expect to do in the coming season.

Participatory Integrated Climate Services for Agriculture, abbreviated as PICSA, (Dorward, Clarkson and Stern, 2011, field manual),  is an outreach program designed to teach extension agents to help farmers make better decisions in light of climate-related risks.

PICSA trainers are choice architects, presenting existing agricultural and nonagricultural livelihood options to farmers in a manner that can facilitate the farmer’s choice in light of a climate forecast presented in terms of probabilities, such as 70% a chance of having a wetter-than-normal agricultural season.

This fall, Dr. Graham Clarkson, myself and the support staff from AREA’s Climate-Smart Solutions Program will co-lead the first phase of a “pilot” of the PICSA outreach program in Port-au-Prince, Haiti: a five-day training of trainers for 15 members of farmer groups who have an advisory role within their farmer groups. The goal of the innovative climate outreach program is to put game-changing information and decision-making tools in the hands of even the poorest farmers in Haiti.

The participants will learn not only about climate change and impacts in agriculture, but also how to communicate this topic to farmers and facilitate a discussion around making the right choice (one with the highest chance of profit or the lowest risk of losses) ahead of the start of the agricultural season.

The training also will include participants’ getting their hands dirty as they will meet with farmers at Wynne Farm in Haiti’s mountainous Kenscoff area to implement the various steps they learned during the week, including resource allocation maps, seasonal calendars, crop probabilities tables and participatory budgets. Finally, on the last day, the participants will discuss what worked and what didn’t. They will also develop a plan to implement various parts of the PICSA outreach program within their respective farmers groups over the next several months, before the spring planting and growing season. Support staff from AREA’s Climate-Smart Solutions Program will assist them in this process and a thorough evaluation will take place at the end of the season to learn from and improve the PICSA process going forward. Stay tuned!

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