Partnerships to increase open weather data’s impact

Kiringai Kamau

Climate warming affects the water cycle, which impacts negatively on agricultural production and derails the cyclical effects associated with weather predictions and agricultural seasonality. Making use of weather data could help farmers to mitigate to the circumstances and increase farm productivity. To succeed, pragmatic public-private multi-stakeholder partnerships are required.

Smallholder farmers rely on the rain for their production and at times get confused, because of climate change, by unreliable weather. It is therefore necessary to invoke the role that technology plays in localising agronomic weather through data collection instruments to interpret and tailor agricultural data for a well-designed farm-based management plan of choice crops. While digital thinking is good for efficiency, it has the draw-back in that collection of weather data results in a data glut that makes it necessary to think costs wrought by the implementation of processes that can utilise the data effectively.

The investment needed to provide such statistics and make it accessible for service providers, calls for pragmatic private public partnerships (also called PPPPs) that promote mutually beneficial interactions between internal and external partners, or operators who share knowledge, resources, and expertise to address weather and agricultural related investments. 

The Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition (GODAN) consistently promotes knowledge driven efforts that support evidence-based decision-making in agriculture, particularly to advice on what can promote food and nutrition security. By doing so it also enables and stimulates partnerships between various actors. With its focus on enabling effective use of open data to address food security and nutrition challenges, the GODAN Action network of data producers, users, and intermediaries which work through supportive partnership of collaborative capacity building of stakeholders, participated during the AMCOMET Africa Hydromet Forum 2017 with some of its African partners comprising of the Regional Center for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD), the Programme for Agricultural Capacity Development in Africa (P4ACAD Africa), and the Center for Agricultural Networking and Information Sharing (CANIS) of the University of Nairobi to demonstrate how weather data can be used to drive food and nutrition data provision for decision-making through engagement and partnerships.

Learning internship

Take P4ACAD Africa, an organisation created to support data aligned work in tertiary colleges and universities in Africa, which presented the model of data acquisition through student led farmer owned Agriculture, Technology and Extension (aTex) Hubs through which new knowledge or information to smallholder farmers is delivered through students participating in a learning internship for experiential learning. In the process of farmer-student interactions, students using simple data collection devices, such as GPS or mobile phone with digital cameras capture critical data on the farming engagements. Students get their information/knowledge from researches, university/tertiary college faculty, and development actors or through contextualised knowledge platform developed with artificial intelligence capacity to anticipate commonly asked questions. The farmer cooperatives weigh the produce by farmers during collection at produce collection centres using digital scales. This generate data that forms the basis for paying the farmers once the cooperative has received payment for what it generated. 

ICT infrastructure, hosted within the aTex Hubs, needs to be an investment that farmers who come together as a cooperative can afford. The hub becomes the organisation through which data from satellites and sensor-based equipment such as drones to help them advise the farmers is acquired. Given the (lack of) resourcefulness among smallholder farmers, their governments at national and subnational levels, development partners, research organizations, universities and the private sector provide the necessary collaborative framework to ensure there is resource mobilisation from a multi-stakeholder base that ensures sustainability.

Building local and international partnerships on weather data and its impacts is urgently needed, as weather variability has consistently been left out of the agricultural value chain debate. More efforts will have to be made to address weather variability as the earth’s atmosphere warms up. It is the accuracy of such weather variability data that farmers have to follow so that they can know when to dam to irrigate their land rather than rely on the rain for their production, a matter that is critical for Africa – where farmers continue to rely on the rain (as irrigation methods are sparse). This will become a critical now more than ever before as rains are consistently becoming unreliable, yet agriculture must produce more food for a growing world population.

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CTA is a joint international institution of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States and the European Union (EU). CTA operates under the framework of the Cotonou Agreement and is funded by the EU.