Useful Definitions

This page gives some useful definitions for understanding, explaining, and using PICSA. Other useful definitions and information is available in the PICSA manual.

Smallholder farmers

These are farmers who cultivate crops, and/or rear livestock on small areas of land, often without access to modern technologies.

Smallholder farmer watering crops using bucket


Crop, livestock and livelihood options

Options are alternative ways of doing things, which can help the farmer to deal with the challenges and opportunities they face, mainly related to the climate and weather conditions of their local area.


Crop options: alternative practices, either completely new or change to something already being done.
Example of different crop options being grown in Bangladesh.


Livestock options: alternative practices associated with livestock, either new completely or change to something already being done.
Cow in a shed in Bangladesh.


Livelihood options: alternative practices associated with off-farm livelihood activities, can be new entirely or change to something already being done.
Food crop selling in Bangladesh.


Climate – The long-term average weather conditions and dynamics of a specific area over a period of at least 30 years.

(Also see a more detailed definition by the World Meteorological Organisation at this link)

Weather – Short term changes in the atmosphere over periods of minutes up to months.

Man drawing climate graph
Explaining climate information in Central America

Climate Change – A statistically-significant trend of change in the climate over at least 30 years.

Climate Variability – Deviations in climatic characteristics, such as temperature and rainfall, from the average conditions. These deviations may be monthly, seasonal, annual, decadal or even longer. Consecutive summers, for example, will vary in that some will be cooler and some warmer than the long-term average. Climate variability may exist at the same time as climate change, but typically occurs over a much shorter timeframe.

Historical Climate Information – Data, usually collected daily by national meteorology services, which shows variability and trends in climatic conditions (rainfall, temperature etc) over a period of at least 30 years and presented in a way that is useful and useable for farmers as decision-makers.


The PICSA Principles

The Farmer Decides – farmers are best placed to make decisions about their agricultural practices, because they have detailed knowledge of their farm, system and environment, and they also face the consequences (whether favourable or unfavourable) of their decisions.

Farmers presenting completed PICSA activities
Farmers present the decisions they made in PICSA training in Bangladesh

Options by Context – The understanding that all farmers are individuals with different access to resources, different social characteristics, different attitudes to risk and different goals, among other things. The options that are suitable for, or that interest, a farmer are therefore likely to differ from farmer to farmer.