(Tetum) Seeds of Life (SoL) research showing that the average temperature in Timor-Leste has increased by 1°C and rainfall has dropped 19% since 1974 was presented at the 1st Climate Change Adaptation Conference in Dili this week.
The research finding that Timor-Leste is now hotter than in Portuguese times is based on an analysis of changes in temperature and rainfall between the periods 1954-1974 and 2004-2012.
Specifically, the research found the following results:
|Rainfall (mm annually)||1653||1284|
MAF-SoL Cropping Systems Advisor Samuel Bacon said that this type of research on climate change is vital to understanding the likely impact of further changes in climate on farming families in Timor-Leste.
“Climate change can impact a farmer’s maize or rice production if the temperature is increasing. Therefore, we need to learn more about Timor-Leste’s rainfall, temperature, and the impact of nitrogen and other plant nutrients required for soil,” he said.
MAF-SoL have been conducting research into identifying the food crop varieties best adapted to the Timorese climate for over 10 years.
“Crop yields are not only affected by climate change but by the condition of farmers’ soil and the crop varieties used,” Samuel said.
Samuel explains that despite these changes in climate, farmers can improve their crop yields by planting well-adapted varieties, planting at the recommended spacing, weeding at the correct time and growing legume cover crops like lehe (velvet bean) that reduce weeds and improve soil fertility.
“Like in Maubisse for example, if the temperature increases then crop yields can also increase. Farmers can also increase their crop yields by planting a legume to improve the levels of soil nitrogen in their fields,” he said.
Betano, located on the south coast, has a hot climate and is another place that will be affected by climate change.
“In the future, crop yields will likely decrease in Betano due to the increasing temperature. However, trials at Betano Research Station and in farmers’ fields show that farmers are able to improve crop yields by improving soil fertility through the use of velvet bean and by addressing other soil nutrient constraints,” Samuel said.
“Crop yields are not only affected by climate change but by the condition of farmers’ soil and the crop varieties used”
The research was presented by Florindo Morais, MAF-SoL Climate Resesarch, and Samuel Bacon at the conference on Thursday 6 November under the title of “Climate in Timor-Leste: 1914-2005. How has climate changed in Timor-Leste and how to adapt to the future”.
This research has also been published in the Know Timor book, Volume 1, pages 41 – 47.
MAF and SoL climate change researchers are able to predict Timorese climate trends based on data collected from a series of weather stations located in Aileu, Ainaro, Betano, Dare, Lospalos, Maliana, Manatuto, Maubisse and Viqueque.
“We need to recognize that the climate of Timor-Leste, like that of Northern Australia, is highly variable,” Samuel said.
“Many people are saying that heavy rains that cause flash floods that destroy farmers’ rice fields and long dry periods in El Nino years is “climate change”. Actually these are mostly normal year-to-year climate variation rather than long-term climate change,” he said.
Climate change is the comparison of temperature and rainfall from 50 years ago compared to current temperature and rainfall. From this comparison it is possible to analyse what changes in the climate have occurred.
The next research project for the MAF-SoL climate change team is to compare and analyse newly obtained data from 1914 with data from 2004-2012 to determine the extent that climate has changed over this long period and to predict what the annual temperature and rainfall is likely to be in the future.