Vacancy: specialist operational weather services

Weather Impact has an open position for a specialist operational weather services. We are looking for a full time colleague who would like to contribute to the development of the company in our national and international projects. The vacancy text in Dutch can be found here.

Invitation to the CropMon Project Closure Workshop in Nairobi

Crop Monitoring Service-Kenya (CROPMON) is a four-year project funded by the Geodata for Agriculture and Water (G4AW) facility. The CROPMON project has developed an affordable decision supporting information service for smallholder to medium-sized farmers in Kenya.  CROPMON provides information services to the farmers on the actual crop condition, farm management advisory and a local 7-day forecast of temperatures and rainfall. Today, about 200,000 farmers (growing coffee, sugarcane, maize, wheat and grass) in Kenya benefit on a weekly basis from the CROPMON service.

The Project Closure Workshop of CropMon takes place on Tuesday 20th of August 2019 in Nairobi. On this day, we celebrate the successes of CROPMON project, share the lessons learned and present the business case for the next phase of the project. The day will be a combination of project demonstration, farmer testimonials, business development workshop and last but not least an open forum for discussion and networking.

If you are interested to join this day, please feel free to reach out to us for your registration.[

Fall Armyworm early-warning system operational in Ghana

Together with Satelligence, Weather Impact has developed an early-warning system for the fall armyworm (FAW). Every Monday, a weekly FAW risk map for Ghana (Fig. 1) is calculated based on a combination of observational data, weather forecasts and satellite imagery. Our model highlights the regions in Ghana where FAW are likely to land and lay their eggs next, thereby infesting new crop fields. The risk is calculated per Ghanaian district and given in 4 classes: “low risk”, “medium risk”, “high risk”, and “very high risk”.

Fig 1: 1000 farmers in approximately 50 different villages, indicated by the dots, receive weekly information on the Fall Armyworm risk during the coming week. The map shows the FAW risk for the week of July 23rd.

With our Ghanaian partner Esoko, we have set-up a pilot project to distribute the warning messages to maize farmers across Ghana and assess its impact. Esoko translates the weekly warning message in 15 local languages and communicates it to 1000 farmers per voice-SMS. At the start and the end of the pilot study, surveys are conducted to evaluate the usage and impact of our FAW early-warning system.

By informing farmers earlier on  the future risk of FAW infestations, they have the possibility to prevent crop damage. Based on the risk level, farmers are (strongly) encouraged to scout their fields regularly for eggs and larvae and take precautionary measures where possible. In the end, we aim that this will result in a reduction of crop loss and a contribution to increased food security and farmers’ livelihood. When the pilot study is successful, we aim to expand the service to more farmers and more countries. According to the latest updates, FAW is already becoming a world-wide pest.

From Rain4Africa project to AgriCloud service

At the 31st of May, Weather Impact successfully ended the Rain4Africa project. Together with 8 partners more than 125.000 small scale South African farmers were targeted with the best available weather and climate services, to increase their food production and reduce weather and climate related risks. After 4 years of project, Rain4Africa has now resulted in an operational service called “AgriCloud”. 

“After receiving advice from AgriCloud, I can see now my farm has become better.”

Mr. M.P. Tlamama, farmer

AgriCloud is an online weather based agricultural advisory system that supports farmers and agribusinesses in their day-to-day work to make weather-optimized decisions. Via workshops it has reached over 300.000 farmers in the past years and has an even larger scaling potential.

The AgriCloud platform provides its information to the outside world via three different channels:

  1. A mobile app that extension officers can use to register their farmers and provide them real-time advisories exactly for their farm location. People who do not have a smartphone, can make use of a USSD service.
  2. Online dashboards for agribusinesses, to monitor the progress and business risks of the current season.
  3. Application services (API) to connect this information to other platforms and stakeholders.

The AgriCloud service will continue operations in South Africa after lifetime of the Rain4Africa project. A strong partnership of public and private partners forms the basis of this service. Among these partners are the South African Weather Services, provider of the best available climate and weather data of South Africa, the Agricultural Research Council, provider of agronomic knowledge, HydroNET, a Dutch platform owned by HydroLogic, and Weather Impact, developer of mobile agri-weather applications.

AgriCloud mobile app is available for free in the Google Play Store. In this way even small-scale farmers have access to this information for free. The data (API) and platform services are paid services which sustain the support to small scale farmers. Are you interested to learn more about the AgriCloud platform service, or would you like to connect to our API? Please reach out to us.

NL-Food Security Alliance

April 2018. Weather Impact joins the NL-Food Security Alliance (NL-FSA); a community of mainly Dutch companies and institutions collaborating in creating tailor-made and sustainable solutions for the agri-water-food business. Food security is one of the biggest challenges for the coming years worldwide and is exacerbated by climate change.

The NL-FSA delivers products and services from various expertises and contributes to the development of a profitable and sustainable agribusiness in Africa and Asia. The alliance strives to achieve its goals and at the same time contribute to the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals). The NL-FSA performs in a sustainable manner with respect for people, the environment and climate change. ”

For more information about the NL-FSA can be found on the website

Farmers in Burundi very satisfied with Weather Impact’s forecasts

Last month, Stefan Ligtenberg and Sippora Stellingwerf visited Burundi together with partners from the GAP4All project (Good Agricultural Practices for All). One of the goals of the visit was to evaluate farmers’ opinion on the first version of the AgriCoach app. The AgriCoach app helps farmers decide on what, how and when to plant. Weather Impact provides the weather forecasts in the AgriCoach app. The forecasts contain information on rainfall and temperature for up to 8 days ahead and are given in three languages: Kirundi, French and English.

Weather forecast in the AgriCoach app

We visited several farmer groups across the country and learned that the weather forecasts, especially of rainfall, are well received, understood, and widely used. Using the forecasts, farmers plan their agricultural activities and protect their crops when hazardous weather is forecast. Some farmers, who occasionally hire workers, indicated that the weather forecast directly saves them money: when it rains, no work is done, but the workers have to get paid nonetheless. Using the app, they decide which days are suitable for hiring workers. Other farmers mentioned that last year, when they did not receive the forecast, they planted their maize crops too early. After planting it remained dry for several weeks, destroying their crops. If they would have had the AgriCoach app, they would have postponed the planting activities.

Farmers use the weather forecast for planning their agricultural activities (photo: Frodo Jansen)

Within Gap4All, we do not only give out weather forecast data, the farmers also send us data back. For this project we have distributed manual rain meters to 66 farmer groups. The ‘chef du rain’ of the group measures the rainfall every day at 7 AM and sends the data using the tablet. These measurements will help us to validate and further improve the rainfall forecasts. However, we learned that the measurements are also of great use to the farmers themselves. Measuring the daily rainfall helps farmers to interpret the rainfall forecast, which is given in mm’s of rain, better. Next to that, they use the rainfall measurements to check whether our forecasts were correct.

The ‘Chef du Rain’ measure the rainfall every morning

Based on the suggestions of farmers we visited, we will further improve the weather forecast. In the end, our goal is that the weather forecasts improve crop yield and increase the livelihood and resilience of Burundian farmers.

First Africa, now Asia: Fall Armyworm is becoming a world-wide epidemic

The Fall Armyworm (FAW, Latin: Spodoptera frugiperda) has been taunting farmers in the Americas for centuries. The FAW has over 80 different crops on its diet, but prefers maize. Just three years ago the FAW spread to West-Africa, most likely via air traffic. By today, the FAW has been reported throughout Sub-Saharan Africa and poses a huge threat to food security and the livelihood of farmers. The economic damage is estimated to be several billion USD. Unfortunately, this is not the end. Just recently the FAW has also invaded Asia: India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Yemen now have to face a new pest. The map below shows the current extent of the FAW.

Reportings of the Fall Armyworm (Source: CABI)

Which countries are next? A recent study by Early et al., 2018 investigated the world-wide climatologic suitability for the FAW. In short, the climate should neither be too cold nor too dry. The map below shows areas which are suitable for sustaining year-round FAW populations. Given how fast the FAW has spread over the African continent in the past three years, it seems likely that it will spread further into Asia and possibly even Australia or Europe.

Climatologic suitability for sustaining FAW populations year-round. Purple colors indicate high suitability. Source: Early et al., 2018.

If the FAW is to spread to suitable locations in Europe, across the Mediterranean, or Morocco, we could face a similar situation as in North-America right now. There, regions in Texas and Florida are warm enough to sustain FAW populations year-round. Further up north the winters are too cold, but with the arrival of spring it gets warm enough for the FAW to migrate northwards. By the end of summer, the FAW can get as far as Canada, damaging crops along the way.

Weather Impact has joined forces with Satelligence to battle the Fall Armyworm. Using a combination of weather and satellite data we are developing an early warning system for the Fall Armyworm. Right now, farmers often only notice the FAW when the damage has been done and yield loss is inevitable. Our early warning system could inform them about the risk in advance, enabling them to take preventive actions and avert harvest losses.

Extreme weather in 2018

The year 2018 was the fourth warmest year on record, with a global average surface air temperature of 14.7°C as shown by the data from Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S). The last five years were on average 1.1°C higher than pre-industrial levels. Furthermore, the year 2018 was also the fourth costliest year since 1980 for insured losses due to natural hazards according to Munich RE. The total losses due to natural hazards were estimated at $160 billion, of which 78% had a meteorological or climatological cause.

Although parts of Canada, Kazakhstan, the Antarctic and the oceans were cooler than the 1981-2010 average, most parts of the globe experienced higher surface air temperatures than in 1981-2010. In particular the Arctic, Europe, the Middle East and parts of Antarctica experienced temperatures that were more than 2°C higher than the long-term average. Together with the high temperatures, the CO2 levels have continued to rise in 2018 to an annual average column-averaged CO2 concentration of 406.7 ppm. Just after the year finished, the CO2 concentration at Mauna Loa reached a record high daily CO2 concentration of 413.45 ppm on the 12th of January 2019.

Surface air temperature anomaly for 2018 relative to the average for 1981-2010 (Source: Copernicus Climate Change Service, ECMWF)

Apart from the extremely high temperatures and CO2 concentrations, the year 2018 contained a large number of extreme events. Most of the events with the highest losses were weather related and occurred during the second half of the year. The tropical cyclones Florence, Michael (Northern America) and Jebi (Japan) are listed in the top 5 costliest natural events of last year. Other weather or climatic events that caused high losses were flood events in Nigeria and Kenya and a large hailstorm in Australia.

Large parts of Europe look back at a year with drought. The northern part of Europe experienced a hot and dry summer. The southern part of the continent, however, experienced a wetter year than the 1981-2010 average. In the Netherlands, 2018 was an extreme weather year, with many records broken. It was one of the driest years ever measured in The Netherlands and the amount of sunshine hours was the second most measured since 1901. The year also accounted for the highest number of warm days (maximum temperature above 20°C) since the measurements started.

After an extreme 2017, the year 2018 again ends up as a year with a lot of extremes. As the climate is changing, it is important to keep the impact as small as possible. By informing our clients about extreme weather events, they are able to take precautions and reduce the impact of such events.

Hurricane Michael over the Gulf of Mexico (Source: EUMETSAT)

Mobile weather services for Ethiopian sesame farmers

Sesame is a crop that is sensitive to weather variability; the annual yield is influenced by local weather, especially rainfall amounts and wind. Knowledge on coming weeks’ weather can help small scale farmers to plan their farm activities and address weather related risks. Over the year 2018, a mobile weather services was piloted with 3000 sesame farmers in Amhara and Tigray, two regions in the north of Ethiopia. The farmers received three times a week a weather forecast on their mobile phone in their local language. This pilot was part of the CommonSense project and was carried out in collaboration with the National Meteorological Agency of Ethiopia (NMA) and Sesame Business Network (SBN). To validate the quality of the forecasts, two studies were conducted:
1) An evaluation of the model forecasts against ground stations of the Ethiopian National Meteorological Agency;
2) An evaluation of user experience with a representative group of farmers and agricultural experts.

The validation of the forecasts with the ground stations demonstrates that the forecasts have good skill in forecasting rainfall occurrence over the coming days. The model reaches an accuracy of 70-90% in the central highlands of Ethiopia and Rift valley. The model is a little “over-predictive”, meaning that rain is forecast a slightly more often than occurs. This result is interesting material for the experts of Weather Impact to continue improving the forecasts. Our future research will focus on the application different algorithms or bias corrections, to make the weather service even more trust-worthy for its users, especially during the onset of the rainy season.

The user evaluation makes clear that rainfall forecasts are, compared to temperature and wind, the most important source of information for the farmers. All the respondents confirmed they use the information for their planning and farm management. They use the information to determine the right time of sowing, to apply fertilizer or to protect their crops. Of the interviewed farmers, 96% finds the short-term rainfall forecasts being (close to) very accurate. The majority of farmers also uses wind and temperature forecasts to plan their management practices.

I shared the weather forecast to my colleagues during coffee ceremony and other social gatherings. Some thought that I intervene with God’s work. Some laugh at me and others ask why it is only me who gets the SMS. But what I observed is that the weather forecast should be scaled-up to others. It is very useful to farmers knowing the weather condition of their area.

This was Mr. Yelale Amebachews’ experience regarding the weather forecast.

Although the CommonSense project has come to and end at 31st of December 2018, the partners in this pilot are planning to continue the forecasting service over the year 2019 with funding from SBN.

We would like to thank our colleagues from Sesame Business Network; Melisew Misker and Ataklti Fissha, and from National Meteorological Agency; Endeg Aniley and Hebte Tsegaye, for the report of the user-evaluation. The testimonial and figures in this blog are cited from their report. The figure in the beginning was received from SBN.

Workshop weather services for farmers in Tanzania

Weather Impact has visited the Tanzanian Meteorological Agency (TMA) for a workshop about weather services for small scale farmers in Tanzania. The workshop took place in the scope of the Sikia project and targeted the experts in Numerical Weather Prediction at TMA.
The workshop was focused on using ensemble forecasts for tailored weather forecasting and weather warnings. Fiona van der Burgt from Weather Impact introduced the concept of ensemble forecasting and how one can use ensemble forecasting models to make optimal decision support services for farmers. In a hands-on session, ensemble model output was translated by the participants to a localised weather forecast that can be send to a farmer as mobile text message.
Furthermore, the workshop covered a session about public private partnerships to make sustainable weather services for specific end-users. The session included a hands-on session working with the ‘weather toolbox’ in HydroNET, a product that was developed within the G4AW-Rain4Africa project.
At closure of the workshop, the ambition was formulated to verify the quality of the mobile forecasts provided to farmers registered under Sikia. The verification will be done against ground-station measurements provided by TMA and against the observations that the farmers make themselves. This will result in a quantitative and qualitative analysis of the validity of the forecasts over the area.