Agro-meteorological advisory services for Africa

Farmers in Sub Saharan Africa face enormous challenges due to a changing climate, limited farm inputs, poor physical, financial and socio-economic infrastructure and lack of information to make informed decisions. To answer all these challenges and uncertainties, the different players operating in the agro-sector, need accurate and reliable information services to support decisions around farm and crop management, application of farm inputs (seeds, nutrients, water), logistics and storage of farm outputs (produced goods) and managing risks (provision of credit and insurance). Such services will help to mitigate risks of decreased productivity (or even crop failure), in-efficient use of input, less effective logistics, inability to repay loans etc.

Currently several agro-advisory services do exist in SSA but these are usually developed and operated within the context of a project lacking the proper balance between good business and institutional models, to sustain services after the project’s lifetime. It is key that services are relevant (right type of advice), affordable (preferably free for smallholders), accurate and reliable (sustained service delivery), as well as institutionally viable.

This scoping study was conducted by Wageningen Environmental Research. It aimed to: 1) prioritize countries in Sub Saharan Africa for launching argo-meteorological services by looking at several criteria e.g. institutional readiness, policy environment, local partners, (short term projected) penetration of smart phone, existing similar services, and 2) set-up a demonstration case for Kenya building with 150.000 farmers. This project is funded by Seed Money Projects – Topsector Agro Food.


Crop Monitoring for Kenyan farmers

Irregular rainfall due to climate change is posing huge challenges on Kenya’s rainfed agriculture. To support agribusinesses to adapt to climate change and become more climate resilient, good quality weather and climate information is needed.

In CropMon project an information service is developed for farmers, farmer organisations and other stakeholders in Kenya. The CropMon service provides local information on (1) weather forecasts, (2) current crop growth and (3) how crop growth can be influenced by adjusting farm management practices. Weather Impact delivers the weather forecasts and monitors current weather conditions for this service.

Satellite, weather and field soil data are combined to monitor the status of crop growth. Based on this information, an advice is given to improve crop growth. The advice ranges from crop or soil management, irrigation, run-off control, or the use of fertilizers. Farmers receive advisory text messages (SMS) on a regular basis. For farmer organisations and other stakeholders, smartphone- and web-applications are developed. Our service is constantly improving, by using farmers’ feedback and collected data.

Weather Impact has provided weekly weather forecast messages, which were sent out by SMS to the farmers. Furthermore, Weather Impact has provided temperature and precipitation monitoring products, agro-meteorological indicators, historic weather information and weather and climate analyses to the project.

Over 190,000 individual farm households were impacted by the service during the project. The average improvements of yield, input use efficiency (seeds, fertilizers and herbicides) and farm income respectively amounted to 15%, 100% and 46%. CropMon is a project from the Geodata 4 Agriculture and Water facility, funded by the Netherlands Space Office. The partners in this project are;

The project phase has ended in September 2019. Weather Impact has continued the weather SMS service since October 2019. More than 190.000 farmers have received a weekly SMS on Tuesday with the weather forecast for their location.

In July 2020, Cereal Growers Association and Weather Impact officially continue their cooperation. They have signed an agreement to continue Weather information delivery to the members of CGA. CGA and WI share their ambition in Kenya to support farmers in their decision making on the farm with reliable weather information and wish to optimize their food productivity.

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