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PARTNERS NOVEMBER 2009 FEBRUARY 2010
BY CATHERINE NORWOOD
W ith little capacity to collect water
for irrigation in either regional
or on-farm storages, the many
smallholder farmers on the Indonesian island of
Lombok rely on rainfall to make their rivers run
and provide water for their crops.
Australian scientists from the Queensland
Centre for Climate Change Excellence (QCCCE)
have been working with ACIAR and Indonesian
Government agencies to develop climate and
water-availability models for Lombok. The aim
is to improve decision-making about irrigated
cropping and increase profits for farmers,
through a better understanding of long-term
Project leader Dr Yahya Abawi, formerly with
QCCCE and now with the Australian Bureau of
Meteorology, says an analysis of past climate
data shows that during La Niña weather patterns
there is enough water to irrigate three crops in
a year across most of the island---usually two
rice crops followed by a break crop. Typically in
a La Niña event, farmers can plant 100% of their
land with the first rice crop, 80% with a second
rice crop, and 50% of their land with a third crop.
"However, in an El Niño event, like the
current one, there is likely to be water for only
95% of the first crop," Dr Abawi says. "And water
availability will decline dramatically for further
crops, particularly in the east, which is generally
drier and more strongly affected by El Niño."
With a limited capacity to store water or
regulate river flows, more accurate climate data
are essential to helping the community plan for
climate variability by providing more accurate
The Australian team, through the ACIAR
project, has developed the Flowcast model
to analyse historical data and current weather
MODELS OF PREDICTION
Australian climate experts have developed models to predict seasonal water
availability in Indonesia, helping farmers make more productive crop choices
conditions and provide forecasts of likely rainfall
and stream flow to Indonesian agencies. The
project has also trained staff at Indonesia's
meteorological agency (Badan Meteorologi
Klimatologi dan Geofisika) to use the model.
The outputs from Flowcast are then used in an
integrated quantity and quality model (IQQM)
tailored to the Lombok irrigation system.
Staff at Indonesia's University of Mataram use
information from the Flowcast and IQQM models
for the CropOptimiser software, also developed
as part of the ACIAR project. CropOptimiser
analyses the complex climate, water and market
factors to identify the most profitable alternative
crops, given the likely water availability.
Farmers generally focus on rice crops
for food security, which typically use
12--15 megalitres per hectare, although
government regulations prevent them from
growing three consecutive rice crops in order
to provide a break for pest and disease control.
Dr Abawi says the aim is to identify those
seasons when water availability is limited---and
how limited it will be---to help farmers make
choices about alternative crops that will use
less water and will reach harvest. Soy and corn,
using 4--5 ML/ha, are popular choices.
While some parts of the island have access
to supplementary water for irrigation from
community-owned embungs (small dams) or
from groundwater, these sources are generally
reserved for high-value cash crops such as
tobacco, which are hand-watered.
Farms in Lombok average only 1,000 square
metres, so the crop decisions of any individual
farmer have a limited impact on water available
to others, or on the oversupply of produce.
However, recommendations about crop selection
are often made at a subregional level by farmer
cooperative committees. Recommendations at
this level can significantly affect market supply.
These committees include representatives
from government agencies, community elders,
religious leaders and farmers. About 75% of
farmers on Lombok have had no schooling and
rely on the cooperatives for direction. Dr Abawi
says the committees provide an important link
between the science community, government
agencies and farmers, and offer the best avenue
of providing relevant information to growers.
While the three models---Flowcast, IQQM
and CropOtimiser---each stand alone, together
they provide a comprehensive planning toolkit
in climate, water and agricultural management
that can improve decision-making in Lombok.
For the moment local expertise behind the use
of the models is limited, but Dr Abawi hopes
it will continue to grow with further training
opportunities and as users become more
familiar with the scientific approach.
He says one of the challenges has been to
improve the links between different agencies,
as well as to provide information for growers
in a way that will be accepted in communities
where traditional knowledge and beliefs are
still the foundation for many farm decisions.
Partnerships such as this between Australian
and Indonesian scientists can positively
influence traditional beliefs by presenting
modern ideas in a practical context that farmers
can apply and benefit from. n
PROJECT: SMCN/2002/033: Seasonal climate
forecasting for better irrigation system
management in Lombok
CONTACT: Dr Gamini Keerthisinghe,
+61 2 6217 0558, email@example.com
PHOTO: YAHYA ABAWI
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