Smallholder farming, the backbone of many African economies, is set to be transformed by a combination of investment and increasing access to information and communication technology (ICT) and especially weather forecast for farmers, in particular, farmers using mobile phones. On the African continent, 65 percent of the workforce is employed in agriculture and the sector generates 32 percent of GDP. Smallholder farmers, mostly women, produce 80 percent of Africa’s food.
Impact of Weather Forecast Systems to Smallholder Farmers in West Africa
In light of the ongoing climate change, agriculture also is one of the most vulnerable sectors, and smallholder farmers in Nigeria are increasingly affected by shifting rainfall patterns. Within the framework of the Ignitia weather forecast for farmers in West Africa, smallholder farmers, provides an SMS-based weather fore-cast to smallholder farmers who are highly dependent on rain-fed production and therefore need accurate weather services to adapt to changing climate conditions. Information on important parameters such as rainfall and temperature will allow farmers to plan their farm operations more efficiently. Seasonal forecasts support farmers in their crop planning, while weekly and daily forecasts allow smallholders to identify the optimum planting and harvest time, and to apply fertilizer and pesticides effectively. Furthermore, accurate weather information maximizes the effectiveness of labour planning and mechanization. To summarize, the weather forecast for farmers is reliable and have the potential to address the low productivity of smallholder farmers holistically.
An automatic mobile-based weather forecast system for smallholders appears to offer the opportunity to meet the demand for location-specific weather forecasts in a cost-efficient way. While the traditional manual collection of weather data based on meteorological expertise is expensive, an automatic system, ranging from data collection to information dissemination, can operate at comparably low costs. Finally, the ICT applications have a strong cross-cutting component of introducing innovations to the agricultural sector and value chain development. For example, in the rice value chain, ICT innovation is promoting the use of RiceAdvice as a tool for agricultural extension. RiceAdvice is a bilingual Android App developed by AfricaRice that serves as a decision support tool for farmers, providing them with pre-season field-specific management guidelines for rice production systems in Africa. It aims to guide farmers to increase their production by providing GAP advice calibrated to local conditions. In cooperation with AfricaRice, the Green Innovation Centre is implementing RiceAdvice to support efforts in the area of extension in good agricultural practices. Other ICT tools, such as 3D animation for good agricultural practices videos, also serve as examples of innovations that can be introduced in the selected value chains.
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