Weather forecasts to increase resilience
Can an extremely targeted, low-cost tropical weather forecast help make a difference for those most in need? In rural Senegal, where small-scale farmers are highly vulnerable to climate conditions, being dependent on rainfall for their daily agricultural activities, access to weather information that is timely, easy to understand and actionable could prove crucial to strengthening resilience and livelihoods. WFP worked with Ignitia to make a mobile phone text message service branded iska™ available to 6,000 small-scale farmers living in 110 villages in eastern Senegal. The one-year pilot programme sought to integrate Ignitia’s services in WFP’s resilience initiatives in the country with the aim of better equipping smallholder farmers to mitigate climate risks.
Weather forecasts available in rural Senegal to date have been of negligible value to people who are dependent on agriculture because they are not reliable enough.
To bridge this gap and increase small-scale farmers’ access to reliable weather forecasts that are timely and easy to understand, the World Food Programme (WFP) partnered with Ignitia, a high-tech social enterprise led by Ashoka Fellow Liisa Petrykowska.
Ignitia has created the world’s first highly accurate tropical forecasting model. A mobile phone text message service branded iska™ was launched in Ghana in 2014 to generate reliable, GPS-specific weather forecasts designed to meet the needs of semi-illiterate farmers. iska™ has proven itself to be twice as accurate in its rain predictions as global forecasts in the tropics.
WFP worked with Ignitia to make iska™ available to 6,000 small-scale farmers living in 110 villages in eastern Senegal. The one-year pilot programme sought to integrate Ignitia’s services in WFP’s resilience initiatives in the country with the aim of better equipping smallholder farmers to mitigate climate risks.
The training provided to farmers in 93 villages in the Tambacounda region proved useful, as the advantages of a reliable weather forecasting for agricultural practices are far from being fully understood by local communities.
Both WFP and Ignitia faced and overcame several challenges during this pilot phase, mainly linked to text messages delivery, farmers’ widespread illiteracy and the very strict regulatory framework for mobile operations in the country.
“With iska™, smallholder farmers receive vital information that helps them mitigate risk and create resilience at every step in the farming cycle. By making informed decisions, farmers are able to increase yields and improve their livelihoods, year after year”.