Armed with Information: Supporting Farmers to Adapt to Flash Flooding

With the frequency flooding and other extreme events set to increase on a warmer planet, farmers must innovate to remain productive and sustainable. While the need to adapt is clear, exactly how to navigate the information needed to do so poses problems for many in the sector.

Md Kamruzzaman, a PhD fellow at the ANU Fenner School of Environment and Society and Institute for Water Futures tackled this problem by investigating how Extension and Advisory Services (EAS) can arm farmers with the knowledge to adapt to flash flooding. While he conducted his research in Bangladesh, Kamruzzaman says that the findings can provide lessons to the sector around the world.

EAS have a long history of helping farmers to access resources to build the skills to run their farms more productively and sustainably.

Kamruzzaman found that farming has several stages, starting with the beginning of the season and ending with the harvest and post-harvest activities.

At the field level, flash flooding affects farming at various stages of production. Kamruzzaman discovered that in most of the cases, EAS support farmers to access information and resources at early and mid-stages of farming. However, come harvest season, EAS fall short and leave farmers feeling unsupported as they try to sift through resources. In many cases, this results in a less bountiful harvest despite farmers following suggestions from the EAS throughout the season.

“EAS need to help farmers access knowledge and resources in all stages farming, since support in each stage has cumulative effects on overall farm production, as well as adaptation to flash flooding,” said Kamruzzaman.

Kamruzzaman also identified that EAS mostly help farmers to connect with formal actors, such as EAS organisations and research institutes, to secure information and resources.

Those farmers who are supported by EAS tend to embargo the knowledge they receive, restricting their new ideas from other farmers not supported by EAS.

The result is often a group of farmers who only receive information from formal actors and another group who rely on informal sources. This creates an imbalance in information access, as well as preventing farmers from acquiring a rounded knowledge from a diversity of information and resources.

“Farmers should have access to both formal and informal actors to achieve new and innovative ideas and knowledge for the adaptation to flash flooding,” said Kamruzzaman.

“It is also essential that EAS support the connection and sharing of ideas and information among various farmers’ groups. This way farmers are able to access information from a much broader set of actors and have greater opportunity for adaptation to various effects of flash flooding.”

"While these findings pertain to Bangladesh, we can draw valuable insights applicable around the world, including Australia. This is particularly timely considering farmers in north-east New South Wales and southern Queensland recently suffered devasting losses in the wake of severe floods.”

This story is based on the paper “The Role of Extension and Advisory Services in Strengthening Farmers’ Innovation Networks to Adapt to Climate Extremes” published in Sustainability.

Questions for Kamruzzaman? Get in touch. 

Contacts

Md Kamruzzaman

Acknowledgement of Country

The Australian National University acknowledges, celebrates and pays our respects to the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people of the Canberra region and to all First Nations Australians on whose traditional lands we meet and work, and whose cultures are among the oldest continuing cultures in human history.

Updated:  13 July 2022/Responsible Officer:  RSAA Director/Page Contact:  Webmaster