Onset monsoon Myanmar prospers the MyVAS4Agri project

On 28 May 2018 the monsoon officially started in Yangon, Myanmar. At this same date, the project MyVAS4Agri was launched by the project partners all present in Myanmar. According to Burmese traditions, this will bring fortune and luck to our project.

MyVAS4Agri, an acronym for “Myanmar Value Added Services for Agriculture”, is a G4AW project funded in the 3rd call. The project partners are agro-supplier AWBA group, software developer Miaki, their joint venture VillageLink, the Myanmar ministry of agriculture and three Dutch partners being TerraSphere, Sarvision and Weather Impact. The coming years we will work towards successful implementation of weather and satellite data in information services for farmers. During the project we aim to reach at least 850,000 small scale farmers. The project has a jump start with the “Htwet Toe” mobile app. Htwet Toe means high yield, and provides farmers with all sorts of relevant information, ranging from farm-advice via questions and answer to weather information to market prices. This mobile app was developed by Village Link and already has more than 100,000 downloads form the google play store.

After having many fruitful interviews with local farmers and agronomists, Weather Impact is looking forward to enriching the Htwet Toe app with tailored weather-related farm advisories, seasonal outlooks and monitoring and advanced forecasts on onset and cessation of the monsoon.

You can read more about the app in this news-item:

Farmers now empowered with new agri-mobile app Htwet Toe

 

Positive feedback from Kenyan farmers

For the G4AW project CropMon in Kenya, regular feedback reports are delivered by our project partners. In the latest SMS feedback survey 178 farmers were interviewed in April 2018 for the period April-December 2017. The results were quite positive. On average, 95 % of the respondents indicated that the weather forecast that they received through SMS was correct. In addition, the weather forecast was used by some of the farmers to plan management practices. Whether they used the weather forecast strongly depended on the type of crop they were growing. It ranged from 24% for coffee growers to 87% for sugar cane farmers.  On average 91% of the farmers states that they think the advice given by the CropMon consortium was useful and between 80-100% of the farmers witnessed an improvement in their crop growth. Weather Impact continues to monitor farmers feedback in 2018 and the results are used to further improve our messages.

Ethiopian meteorologists visit Weather Impact

Last week three meteorologists from the Ethiopian National Meteorological Agency (NMA) visited The Netherlands for the G4AW CommonSense project. In this project, smallholder farmers in Ethiopia are provided with information services, such as weather forecasts, to help them make better informed decisions on farming activities. As mobile internet and smartphones are not widespread across the rural Ethiopian population, they receive a daily weather forecast by SMS.

The NMA is responsible for all weather-related activities in Ethiopia, therefore it is important for the CommonSense project to collaborate closely with the NMA. During their visit at our offices in Amersfoort, we discussed how both parties can benefit from collaboration. The NMA has a dense network of weather stations across Ethiopia. These stations are very useful to evaluate the performance of the CommonSense weather forecasts. Weather Impact shared experience and knowledge on how to turn model data into tailored forecasts for African agriculture. During a workshop organized by Weather Impact, a validation of the model forecast using NMA weather station data was set up. Fruitful discussions lead to a mutual increase in understanding of tropical meteorology. The final day of their trip coincided with King’s Day, the Dutch national holiday, where the Ethiopian meteorologists got to experience typical Dutch folklore.

 

22 march 2018: Weather Information Services for successful local agriculture in Africa

Food security for Africa is an urgent global challenge. The main cause of food insecurity is inadequate food production. New weather services are key to produce food more efficiently and of higher quality. On March 22nd 2018 Weather Impact hosted a seminar to join leading experts from the fields of meteorology, hydrology and African agriculture. The seminar, named “Weather-information services for successful local agriculture in Africa” gave a platform to professionals at the forefront of science and practise. They addressed crucial opportunities and challenges of achieving successful local agriculture in African countries. In the “open space” workshop that followed to the plenary speakers, we discussed practical challenges, opportunities and solutions to improve local agricultural productivity in African countries. Due to the large variety in the expertises of the participants and their active contributions we are looking back to a very succesful day. The results of the discussions will be summarized and will become available via the seminar web-page.

Two successful G4AW projects proposals

Weather Impact celebrates to be part of two successful project consortia in the third call of the Geodata for Agriculture and Water (G4AW) Facility. The Netherlands Space Office announced in February to have selected six project out of 27 proposals being submitted. The G4AW programme aims to improve food security in developing countries by using satellite data and geo-information. The facility is funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

For Weather Impact the two new projects will provide a great opportunity to deliver improved weather information services to small scale farmers in two countries that are new for us. We are looking forward to starting with ‘GAP4A’ in Burundi, and ‘MYVAS4AGRI’ in Myanmar.

 

GAP4A – Bonnes Pratiques Agriculturales Pour Tous (Good Agricultural Practices for All)
Country: Burundi

The AgriCoach app will provide 100,000 smallholder farmers in the provinces Gitega, Kayanza and Karusi with information on a) WHAT crop to plant  b) WHEN to plant and implement crop management practices throughout the season based on weather information and seasonal monitoring; and c) HOW to do this for optimal results via a Best Practices database.

Project coordinator: AUXFIN

MYVAS4AGRI – Myanmar Mobile Value-Added Services for Agriculture 
Country: Myanmar

The project targets 850,000 farming families or 1,020,000 individual users/food producers growing rice, green and black gram, maize, groundnut, potato and sesame. The following services will be provided: a) Daily localised weather data; b) Agronomic crop tips and alerts; c) Insights into the use of good agricultural practices; d) Market & product related information; e) Access to incentives.

Project Coordinator: Myanmar Awba Group Company

 

Swahili, Xhosa or Amharic weather forecasts

For a language lover, Africa is the continent to travel. Language barriers do often not coincide with country borders and the variety is huge. Ethiopia knows 80 different languages, the click consonants in the Khoisan languages in Southern Africa are world famous and Swahili is spoken in 9 different African countries.

The variety of languages is a challenge when providing weather forecasts to African small-scale farmers. Our vision at Weather Impact is that weather services should be tailored towards user needs. One of the priorities is to translate the messages to local language, so each user receives the information in his or her mother tongue. When working in Africa, this means that many translations are needed. Our African partners take the lead in this. Preferably, the translation of the agro-meteo forecast is made by a local agronomical or meteorological expert, because this person knows local dialect and habits of farmers better than an official interpreter. Together with our African partners we now deliver our weather forecast text messages to African farmers in Swahili, English, Amharic, Tigrinya and Oromiffa. While developing, we found out that the 160-character limit for text messages does not commute well with the long words that Swahili is rich of. The result of the Amaric translation looked so mind-dazzling from our European perspective that we could not do anything else than fully trust the interpreters not translating the results of the latest match for the African Cup. In the South African ‘Rain 4 Africa’ project, we are developing a smartphone application with farm advice in English, Venda, Xhosa, Sepedi, Zulu, Tswana and Sotho. It is one of the first smartphone application with farm advice that contains so many languages. We are very happy we have achieved this together with our partners and to them we say, ‘Asante Sana’ and ‘አመሰግናለሁ’.

2017: Weather Extremes and Record Losses

From left to right: Katia (Tropical Storm), Hurricane Irma and Jose (not yet a hurricane).  NASA/NOAA GOES 

The year 2017 was the second warmest year since the start of measurements around 1880, and the warmest year without El Niño effect. Losses caused by extreme weather events broke all records. The overall losses due to natural catastrophes were estimated to be $330bn, of which $267bn (81%) was caused by meteorological catastrophies.

The climate analysis of the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S), see figure below, shows that the global average temperature of 2017 is 14.7°C. This is 1.2°C above pre-industrial reference temperature, and 0.5°C above the average of the years 1981-2010.

The hurricane season in the Atlantic was very active and set some remarkable records. Hurricane Harvey caused a record amount of precipitation above Texas. Irma was the hurricane with the worldwide longest episode of category 5. The hurricane Ophelia reached Europe and was the most eastern hurricane since the start of the satellite era.

Other extremes on the list of 2017 are the summer heat wave and wildfires in Europe. Nepal, India and Bangladesh received such severe monsoon rains, that 2,700 people lost their lives due in floods. Drought continued in (parts of) East Africa and a landslide in Sierra Leone killed roughly 500 people. In Peru and Colombia, heavy rains caused landslides and floods resulting in hundreds of casualties.

The weather-related losses of 2017 fit in a trend of increasing losses due to extreme weather. The last years weather again shows us the importance of studying the changing weather pattern and improving warning systems to limit the potential losses and human sorrow.

Further reading:

ECMWF: 2017 extends exceptionally warm period

KNMI: Atlantic Hurrucane Season 2017 very active (Dutch)

Acclimatise: 2017 the year in extreme weather

Munich Re: 2017 year in figures

Focus on African agriculture in 2018

The new year prospects for new chances in African small-scale agribusiness. The Weather Impact team celebrated the end of the year 2017 in Ethiopia. Together with Wageningen Environmental Research, a workshop on agro-meteo services for small-scale Ethiopian farmers was organised. We came together with 20 Ethiopian meteorological and agronomical experts, to discuss the best methods and partnerships for a reliable and financially sustainable service in Ethiopia. It was decided that the mobile text message with a localized weather forecast, provided in 3 indigenous languages, will be continued in 2018 with at least a doubled number of users.

In Kenya, ten-thousands of farmers will be reached with agro-meteo advisory in the CropMon project. In South-Africa, a Mobile farm-advisory app for extension officers will be released in the context of the R4A project. Furthermore, new projects will start in various African countries.

In March 2018, Weather Impact organises a symposium on “Weather information as success factor in local African agriculture” to celebrate our 3rd anniversary and share the successes with our partners.

The Weather impact team wishes you a healthy and successful 2018!

Suitability-maps for Oil Palm cultivation in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo

Weather Impact is doing an assessment of the climate of the Eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Goal of the assessment is to analyse the suitability of the area to cultivate Oil Palm (Elaeis Guineensis). Oil palm is a humid, tropical crop; it thrives best in areas with minimum temperatures above 20°C and an annual rainfall of more than 1800 mm, preferably equally spread over the year. The Congo Basin one of the three largest convective rainfall regions on the planet, under researched because of a severe lack of meteorological observations over the basin. Nevertheless, with support of satellite data and reanalysis datasets it is possible to get a view on local climate and its variability over time. Based on our data, value-adding maps are developed to inform about the suitability of certain areas to cultivate Oil Palm.

On the left-hand side of the figure below the mean annual rainfall over Eastern Congo, Burundi, Rwanda and the great lakes is shown. The right-hand side of the figure shows a suitability map, indicating which places are best suited for growing oil palm based on rainfall. The colours on the map indicate the percentage of years with sufficient rainfall for optimal production of palm oil, darker colours mean the area is better suitable. Local differences in rainfall can be detected, explanatory factors for these differences are local topography, land use and the presence of lakes.

Doing climate assessments in remote areas with a lack of observed climate data is challenging. Performance and reliability of data is hard to assess with a scarcity of ground-truthing. Satellite data and numerical models are an important source of information for these areas and although performance evaluation is constrained, it provides the opportunity to get an impression of local weather and climate variability. Tailored studies as presented here can help understanding the impact of local weather and climate change on the livelihood and food security of the people living there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References:

  • Data is based on the CHIRPS datasource
  • R. Washington, R. James, H. Pearce, W. M. Pokam and W. Moufouma-Okia, “Congo Basin rainfall climatology: can we believe the climate models?”, Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological sciences, vol. 368, p. 1-7, 2013.
  • M. Carr, “The Water Relations and Irrigation Requirements of Oil Palm (Elaeis Guineensis): a Review”, Experimental Agriculture, vol. 47, pp. 629-652, 2011.