CropMon meets farmers in Eldoret, Kenya

In the week from 17 – 21 September, the 4th annual partner meeting of the G4AW project CropMon took place in Eldoret, Kenya. The goal of CropMon (Crop Monitoring Service) is to provide Kenyan farmers information to enhance their crop growth. The information service – both weather information and information about the status of the crop – is provided via SMS to farmers. In the project four Kenyan partners -Cereal Growers Association, Coffee Management, Equity Group Foundation and Sugar Research Institute- cooperate with Dutch partners AgroCares, NEO and Weather Impact and Turkish partner Springg. CropMon provides two types of services:

1. the basic service, in which only weather information is provided for the area around the field;
2. the full service, in which very specific information of the crop status in the monitored field is provided as well.

Weather Impact is responsible for making an accurate weakly weather forecast message for all associated farmers.

The goal of the annual partner meeting was to update all partners about the progress of the project and to plan the work for the upcoming year. Furthermore, a couple of farm visits were done to see how the CropMon service are received in the field. Farmers were able to exchange some experiences with all partners. Farmers were very positive about the weather forecasts as it gives them the ability to plan agricultural activities such as ploughing and application of top dressing. However, the farmers would be very interested to also receive weather forecast on a longer (i.e. seasonal) time scale. With the seasonal forecasts, a farmer would for instance be able to choose a different variety of maize if a shorter rain season is forecasted. In the next year, Weather Impact will investigate the possibility to deliver these forecasts in a short and comprehensive way to the farmers.

Since the project has entered the last year of the subsidy phase, a good working business plan needs to be prepared. To investigate the interest of potential stakeholders, visits were done to Equity Bank and Kibos sugar factory to explain how CropMon could help them and to discuss a possible collaboration. Part of the business plan is the growth in number of registrations . For the end of August 2019, the goal is set to have 30.000 farmers registered for the full service and 150.000 farmers registered for the basic service of CropMon.

The partner meeting was an inspiring week, with a lot of testimonials from farmers that were happy to receive the CropMon services. The meeting also gave new momentum to all partners to work extra hard to improve the services and enhance the number of registrations. Let’s make it to the 150.000 registrations!

Weather Impact expands the team

Sept 2018 – Weather Impact has welcomed two new employees in the team; Bob Ammerlaan MSc and Sippora Stellingwerf MSc. The expansion of our team will enable further growth in the delivery of weather information in our African projects and beyond. Bob Ammerlaan and Sippora have a background in climate physics and meteorology from Utrecht and Wageningen University respectively.  More information about our team can be found via our company profile on LinkedIn.

Left: Bob Ammerlaan MSc, right: Sippora Stellingwerf MSc

GAP4All project officially started in Burundi

Last month, Weather Impact visited Burundi as part of GAP4All, a G4AW funded project (link). GAP4All stands for “Good Agricultural Practices for All” and aims to deliver information services to Burundian small-scale farmers through an Agri-Coach app. With such service, farmers should be able to decide: 1) What crop to plant where, 2) When to plant and perform farming activities, and 3) How to do this for optimal results. This kind of information is believed to result in considerably higher yields while reducing (climate) risks and preserving water and land, increasing the income for smallholder farmers throughout the country.

The week-long trip to Burundi started with visits to various institutes and companies in the capital Bujumbura, such as the Dutch Embassy, the Ministry of Agriculture, ISABU (Burundian seed institute), and IGEBU (Burundian meteorological institute). For such a project to succeed it is important that it is endorsed by all such institutes and governmental organisations. Also, they possess a wealth of local and practical knowledge that is needed for a correct implementation of such an information service. Multiple workshops were organised about weather forecasts, app visualization/design and GIS to exchange insights and ideas.

After these -somewhat formal- visits we embarked on a small roadtrip across Burundi to visit farming communities: the second main goal of the trip. The project will be piloted in the Gitega, Karusi, and Kayanza provinces, so we visited one group of farmers in every province. The small-scale farming communities will be the end users of the Agri-Coach app and their opinions are therefore vital for a successful project. Most farmers have no scholarly background and do not often use technological devices such as (smart)phones, so making an information service that is interpretable by many will definitely be a challenge.

 

Photos by Frodo Jansen

Weather Impact and Satelligence combat the Fall Armyworm in Africa

Fall Armyworm (FAW) is an insect that is native to tropical and subtropical regions of the Americas. It prefers maize but can feed on more than 80 additional species of plants. It has a voracious appetite, reproduces and spreads quickly, given the right environmental conditions. FAW was first detected in Central and Western Africa in early 2016 and has spread across most of sub-Saharan Africa in a staggering speed. Millions of hectares of maize, most in the hands of smallholder farmers, have been infested and the crop pest poses a significant threat to food security, income and livelihoods. According to an evidence note published by the Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International (CABI) in September 2017, unless proper control measures are implemented, the pest could cause maize yield losses estimated between 3.6 and 6.2 billion dollar per year across the 12 major African maize producing countries.

With the aim of combating the spread of FAW across the African continent Weather Impact and Satelligence have joint forces to develop a digital forecasting model that provides actionable insights to users. The innovative model combines high resolution satellite- and weather data to predict the outbreak of the FAW. Farmers receive timely warnings about the risk of outbreak and are enabled to take appropriate measures to protect their crops. The model will be first tested in Ghana where in 2017 over 144 000 hectares were infested with the pest and the livelihood of more than 4 million farmers is threatened.

The first phase of the development is funded by the Small Business Innovation Research program, part of the Dutch Government.


Picture from: www.fao.org

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