All agricultural stakeholders have an interest in accurate, localised and reliable meteorological data. Having access to such data means that organisations and entrepreneurs can translate raw weather data into accessible weather information, which is crucial for farmers to make well-informed farm management decisions and for effective risk mitigation.
Weather data and services have a high potential to enhance support for smallholder farmers in taking operational decisions on farm management. Plant growth is driven by weather variables and therefore agricultural production is directly dependent on weather conditions. Many agricultural activities (e.g. sowing, harvesting, and fertiliser application) are dependent on weather conditions for planning and effectiveness. Given this, all agricultural stakeholders are interested in some form of meteorological data.
Access to open data and particularly weather-related data was identified as a key factor in transforming agriculture and nutrition by the G8 in 2013. Open data is simply defined as data that can be used, re-used, shared and built-on by anyone, anywhere, for any purpose. By making meteorological data available as open data it not only becomes easier to share, but also allows the development of specialised information services by infomediaries targeting specific user needs and the prediction of suitable conditions for farm activities.
Climate change presents major risks for long-term food security and low and middle-income countries may suffer the greatest share of damage in the form of declining yields and greater frequency of extreme weather events. The 2017 FAO publication “The future of food and agriculture: Trends and challenges” estimates an aggregate negative impact of climate change on African agricultural output up to 2080-2100 to be between 15% and 30%. The necessary production increases need to come primarily from increases in yields and cropping intensity, however, the current trend is not sufficient to meet food needs.
Access to weather data
The challenge is therefore for technology to address this problem. Data has risen high on the food security policy agenda. The last decade has seen an exponential increase in the volume and types of data as the benefits for agriculture are potentially huge. Releasing the enormous stock of data will encourage cooperation and collaboration to solve long-standing and evolving problems, benefit farmers, provide informed based decision for businesses and policymakers and will improve the health of consumers. In many areas of the world, agriculture is already a data-driven business, with precision farming making extensive use of GPS, weather, and satellite data, alongside soil information and crop production statistics.
In an effort to address the global agriculture challenges with open data, the Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition (GODAN) Action project focused on accessible weather data in 2017. The partners collaborated on several events, to identify ways to better provide value-added services for smallholders using open weather data in developing countries.
Investing in infomediaries
During the Africa Hydromet Forum, in Addis Ababa, 12-15 September 2017, , the Technical Centre for Agriculture and Rural Cooperation (CTA) partnered with Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD) as part of the GODAN Action project hosted a side event titled “Leveraging Weather Data for Agriculture and Nutrition Challenges in Africa” on 12 September 2017. The panel session determined that by making meteorological information available as open data, it not only becomes easier to share, but also allows the development of specialised information services by infomediaries targeting specific user needs measures and the prediction of suitable conditions for farm activities. It concluded that the weather and meteorological service community needs to act quickly to provide weather data and open data in order to meet the goals of 2030 UN Agenda for sustainable development and in particular food security.
The Hydromet forum closed with a firm commitment from AMCOMET member-states to promote national and regional ownership for the modernisation of national meteorological and hydrological services for delivery of more accurate, timely and reliable weather, water and climate services to accelerate socio-economic development.
Creating impact for smallholders with weather data
Another major event in 2017 was organised on 21 and 22 November 2017 by CTA with partners Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality in The Netherlands, GODAN Action, and Wageningen University & Research, who together hosted two workshops titled “Using weather data to support smallholder agriculture in Africa” and “Creating impact for smallholders with weather data”.
The purpose of the workshops was to share experiences and learning from existing initiatives that focus on providing added value services for smallholders using (open) weather data. It focused on ways to achieve impact for smallholders and the role of standards and capacity building. The workshops brought together actors from different networks to discuss good practices for the application of weather data and viable business models that all actors in the data value chain to co-create value added services in an international context that generate impact for smallholders.
The findings from the two workshops indicated that it will require collaborative efforts and partnerships to develop viable business models for the producers of the data; entrepreneurial incentives for intermediaries to develop localised services from raw weather data; increased engagement with farmer communities; increased use of open data standards for increased data interoperability and the addressing of major capacity gaps in the open weather data value chain.
Data value chain
This issue of ICT Update portrays how various stakeholders in the data value chain are working with and creating agriculture services from weather data while showcasing some of the best practices and the most common challenges in this field.
RCMRD’s open data portal
GODAN Action webpage
Open data in the weather domain could address the information needs of agro-meteo farm advisory systems. However, is open data ‘fit-for-purpose’; does it match the needs of being reliable, relevant, timely and accessible? Some answers come from the CommonSense project targeting smallholder farmers in Ethiopia.Read More
Two innovative enterprises have integrated a weather service system within an agro advisory service for farmers in East Africa. The eProd handheld device collects the GPS locations and agronomic information such as soil type, seed variety and planting date. aWhere combines this information with their weather data so farmers can now be sent SMS weather forecasts, spray alerts, fertiliser advice and yield projections.Read More
Providing added value services for smallholders using open weather data in developing countries is challenging. Therefore, on 21 and 22 November 2017 practitioners, policy-makers and academics gathered in The Hague, the Netherlands, to explore in two workshops the practical and strategic challenges they face to work with open weather data and how to address them.Read More
Most of the business models for weather services to smallholder farmers in Kenya are financially too unsustainable to scale-up. To do so it requires capacity building and establishing quality management system geared toward validating the impact.Read More
by Leigh Dodds
Ensuring that data can be easily accessed, used and shared requires the use of data standards. If you are currently working on a data project you should take time to consider what standards might be available to you to help to achieve the goals of your project.Read More
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.Read More
by Tufa Dinku
Availability of and access to climate data and information products is critical to achieving climate resilient development. However, climate information is not widely used in Africa. Useful information is often not available or, if it does exist, is inaccessible to those that need it most. Efforts are being made to alleviate the problem of data availability and use.Read More
There is a lack of weather and climate observation stations in Africa, while food production, harvest predictions, and disaster mitigation would benefit from improved data-accessible observation. A new smart and sustainable weather and climate observation network now addresses the important challenge of monitoring the weather in the continent.Read More
All agricultural stakeholders have an interest in accurate, localised and reliable meteorological data. Having access to such data means that organisations and entrepreneurs can translate raw weather data into accessible weather information, which is crucial for farmers to make well-informed farm management decisions and for effective risk mitigation.Read More
In Zambia, the Meteorological Department opens its weather and climate data by providing informative weather products to end users. For example, it publishes the 10-day crop weather bulletin.Read More
The start-up enterprise Severe Weather Consult in Rwanda succeeded in receiving support to develop a business model and is now involved in a public private partnership that allows them to make use of weather data for an alert advisory service to farmers.Read More
Smallholder farmers in the Pacific have no access to weather index-based insurances, while flooding is a real threat for them. Preliminary research in the region suggests that weather and agricultural data, and the exact locations of farmers is weak in the region.Read More